In the baboon, the 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11beta-HSD)-catalyzed metabolism of maternal cortisol and cortisone by the placenta is an important component in the sequence of events regulating the function of the fetal pituitary-adrenocortical axis. The present study was designed to isolate and sequence the promoter region of the baboon 11beta-HSD-1 gene. The 11beta-HSD-1 genomic DNA was isolated from a baboon kidney genomic library using a human 11beta-HSD-1 cDNA as a probe. The sequence of a 1.7 kb fragment of the 5'-flanking region showed extensive homology (> 95) to that published by others for human 11beta-HSD-1 particularly in exons I and II (> 95%) and in the proximal promoter ( > 98%). Using total RNA from adult baboon liver annealed with a 22 bp antisense primer located at the 3' end of Exon I, parallel genomic sequencing reactions with the same primer confirmed that the baboon 11beta-HSD-1 gene has two transcriptional start sites 93 nucleotides apart and that both start sites are preceded by a CAAT box but not a TATA box. RNase protection assays confirmed that both transcription start sites are utilized in liver and near term baboon placenta and that transcripts emanating from the downstream start site dominate in the placenta in contrast to the preferential utilization of the upstream start site in adult liver.