Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is expressed at a high level in the luminal epithelial cells of the prostate and is absent or expressed at very low levels in other tissues. PSA expression can be regulated by androgens. Previously, two functional androgen-response elements were identified in the proximal promoter of the PSA gene. To detect additional, more distal control elements, DNasel-hypersensitive sites (DHSs) upstream of the PSA gene were mapped in chromatin from the prostate-derived cell line LNCaP grown in the presence and absence of the synthetic androgen R1881. In a region 4.8 to 3.8 kb upstream of the transcription start site of the PSA gene, a cluster of three DHSs was detected. The middle DNAseI-hypersensitive site (DHSII, at approximately -4.2 kb) showed strong androgen responsiveness in LNCaP cells and was absent in chromatin from HeLa cells. Further analysis of the region encompassing DHSII provided evidence for the presence of a complex, androgen-responsive and cell-specific enhancer. In transient transfected LNCaP cells, PSA promoter constructs containing this upstream enhancer region showed approximately 3000-fold higher activity in the presence than in the absence of R1881. The core region of the enhancer could be mapped within a 440-bp fragment. The enhancer showed synergistic cooperation with the proximal PSA promoter and was found to be composed of at least three separate regulatory regions. In the center, a functionally active, high-affinity androgen receptor binding site (GGAACATATTGTATC) could be identified. Mutation of this element almost completely abolished PSA promoter activity. Transfection experiments in prostate and nonprostate cell lines showed largely LNCaP cell specificity of the upstream enhancer region, although some activity was found in the T47D mammary tumor cell line.