The mating type of yeast is determined by the allele, either a or alpha, at the MAT locus. Two other loci, HML and HMR, contain complete copies of the alpha and a genes, respectively, which are not expressed. The four SIR gene products are required in trans for repression of the silent loci, as are cis-acting sites on either side of HML and HMR, about 1000 bp from the mating-type promoters. We demonstrate that one of these cis-acting sequences, HMRE, is able to switch off at least two nonmating-type promoters. In common with enhancers, it is able to function in either orientation, relatively independently of its position with respect to the regulated promoter, and can act on promoters 2600 bp away. However since HMRE represses, rather than enhances, transcription we have called it a "silencer" sequence.