Triple tandemly repeated sequences and the corresponding complementary sequence are known to exist in the 5'-terminal regulatory region of the human gene for thymidylate synthase (TS). To examine the function of these sequences, a set of deletion mutants was prepared and used in a transient expression assay. The results showed that at least one repeated sequence and its complementary sequence were necessary for the efficient expression of the gene. As another approach to understanding the function of this unique structure, DNA polymorphism in the same region was analyzed. In addition to the TS gene with the triple tandem repeat, the TS gene with a double tandem repeat was found in genomes of normal human subjects at an estimated frequency of 19% when genomes of 21 unrelated Japanese were analyzed. The expression activity of a reporter gene linked to the promoter region of the human TS genes with the two types of repeated sequence was examined and the result showed that the expression activity of the gene with the double repeat was lower than that of the gene with the triple repeat in the transient expression assay. Thus, it appears that the unique repeated sequences in the 5'-terminal region of the human TS gene are polymorphic and contribute to the efficiency of expression of the gene.