The histone H1t gene is expressed exclusively in testis primary spermatocytes. Previous studies indicate that accumulation of H1t mRNA occurs only in primary spermatocytes in normal rats and in transgenic mice bearing the rat H1t transgene. In this study, DNA sequences of human, monkey, mouse, and rat H1t genes were compared and found to be almost identical in the proximal promoter region extending from the H1/AC box through the TATAA box. In addition to conserved elements common to replication-dependent H1 promoters, the H1t promoter contains a unique TE element, and sequences within this element may contribute to enhanced expression of the gene in primary spermatocytes. Two imperfect inverted repeat sequences designated TE1 and TE2, that are located within the larger TE element, overlap a central GC-rich region and bind specifically to nuclear proteins derived from primary spermatocytes. Protein interactions characterized by methylation interference and UV cross-linking experiments indicate that a complex of proteins with a molecular mass of approximately 180 kDa binds TE1. The GC-rich region in H1t and in some replication dependent histone H1 promoters contains an Sp1 consensus sequence. Although the H1t/TE element that contains the GC-rich region binds nuclear proteins, it does not appear to bind Sp1 obtained from cell populations enriched in primary spermatocytes as determined by electrophoretic mobility supershift assays using polyclonal anti-Sp1 antibodies.