Site-directed mutagenesis was used to prepare a series of human oestrogen receptor (hER) deletion mutants. The ability of these mutant receptors to bind oestradiol, either after being transiently expressed in HeLa cells or produced synthetically in vitro using T7 polymerase coupled with a rabbit reticulocyte lysate translation system, was analysed. The results indicate that a region which is highly conserved (94% amino acid identity) between the human and chicken ERs (region E) contains all of the sequence necessary to bind oestradiol with high affinity. When tight nuclear association of the oestradiol-receptor complex was investigated using the oestradiol-binding mutants of the same series, two regions of the hER sequence were found to be important. One of these regions is completely conserved (100% amino acid identity) between the human and chicken ERs (region C). This region is rich in cysteine and basic amino acids and contains motifs similar to those which have been proposed to be important for DNA binding in other eukaryotic transcriptional regulatory proteins. The other region (region D), which is comparatively poorly conserved (38% amino acid identity), is located between the putative DNA-binding domain (region C) and the oestradiol-binding domain (region E).