The promoters of rat and mouse aquaporin-2 (AQP-2) genes were cloned and compared with that of human genes. Nucleotide identity up to -593 bp was 62%, and consensus sequences such as TATA box and adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate responsive element were conserved. Deoxyribonuclease I footprint assay revealed a footprinted region at -210 to -184 bp in rat AQP-2 gene promoter produced by nuclear extract from nonexpressing (liver) tissue. The sequence of this region included a GATA motif but otherwise showed no homology with any other previously known cis-elements. Electromobility shift assay and ultraviolet cross-linking analysis confirmed that specific binding proteins to this element were present in kidney, spleen, and liver and that these proteins were distinct from GATA factors. Both deletion and mutation of this cis-element abolished the protein DNA binding and increased promoter activity in in vitro reporter gene assay using rat cultured hepatocyte Ac2F cells, suggesting the negative regulatory role of this cis-element. These results indicate that tissue-specific expression of AQP-2 gene may in part be regulated by this novel negative acting cis-element.