Cystatin C (CstC) is a potent cysteine-proteinase inhibitor. The structure of the mouse CstC-encoding gene (Cst3) was examined by sequencing a 6.1-kb genomic DNA containing the entire gene, as well as 0.9 kb of 5' flanking and 1.7 kb of its 3' flanking region. The sequence revealed that the overall organization of the gene is very similar to those of the genes encoding human CstC and other type-2 Cst, with two introns at positions identical to those in the human gene. The promoter area does not contain typical TATA or CAAT boxes. Two copies of a Sp1-binding motif, GGGCGG, are present in the 5' flanking region within 300 bp upstream from the initiation codon. A hexa-nucleotide, TGTTCT, which is a core sequence of the androgen-responsive element (ARE), is found in the promoter region. This region also contains a 21-nucleotide sequence, 5'-AGACTAGCAGCTGACTGAAGC, which contains two potential binding sites for the transcription factor, AP-1. The mouse Cst3 mRNA was detected in all of thirteen tissues examined by Northern blot analysis. Cst3 was mapped in the mouse to a position on distal chromosome 2.