We have studied the DNA sequences required for high level expression of a cloned heavy chain immunoglobulin gene stably introduced into mouse myeloma cells by DNA transfection. We found that DNA sequences derived from the germ line JH-C mu region are required for accurate and efficient transcription from a functionally rearranged VH promoter. Similar to viral transcriptional enhancer elements, these cellular sequences stimulate transcription from either the homologous VH gene segment promoter or a heterologous SV40 promoter. They are active when placed on the 5' or 3' side of the rearranged VH gene segment and they function when their orientation is reversed. However, unlike viral enhancers, the Ig gene enhancer appears to act in a tissue-specific manner, since it is active in mouse B cells but not in mouse fibroblasts. The nucleotide sequence of the Ig enhancer region contains repeating elements that closely resemble sequence the possible role of tissue-specific transcription in cell differentiation and malignant transformation.