A number of spontaneous up-promoter mutations have been isolated in the ampC beta-lactamase gene of Escherichia coli. The mutants were analyzed by DNA sequencing, and the level of ampC gene expression was determined. Six mutants with a 21-fold increase in promoter strength compared with the wild-type were mutated in the -35 promoter region from TTGTCA to the consensus sequence TTGACA . The -10 region sequence TACAAT was mutated to the consensus sequence TATAAT in three mutants exhibiting an ampC promoter seven times stronger than the wild-type. We have previously described a 1-bp insertion mutant ( Jaurin et al., 1981) that changes the inter-region distance to the consensus 17 bp. Thus, all the up-mutations found in the ampC promoter represent corrections of the three major discrepancies between the ampC promoter and the consensus E. coli promoter. We conclude that the three consensus elements of E. coli promoters, the -35 and -10 regions and an optimal inter-region distance of 17 bp, are the main elements determining the promoter strength.