The transcription factor GATA-1, which is expressed in several hematopoietic lineages and multipotential progenitors, is required for the development of red blood cells and platelets. To identify control elements of the mouse GATA-1 gene, we analyzed DNase I hypersensitivity of the locus in erythroid chromatin and the expression of GATA-1/Escherichia coli beta-galactosidase (lacZ) transgenes in mice. Transgenes with 2.7 kb of promoter sequences are expressed infrequently and only within adult (definitive) erythroid cells. We show that inclusion of an upstream hypersensitive site (HS I) markedly enhances the frequency of expressing transgenic lines and activates expression in primitive erythroid cells. This pattern recapitulates the proper pattern of GATA-1 expression during development. By breeding a GATA-1/lacZ transgene into a GATA-1(-) background, we also have shown that the activation or maintenance of GATA-1 expression does not require the presence of GATA-1 itself, thereby excluding simple models of positive autoregulation. The transgene cassette reported here should be useful in directing expression of foreign sequences at the onset of hematopoiesis in the embryo and may assist in the identification of upstream regulators of the GATA-1 gene.