We have examined the expression of lamins A, B1, and C in human tissues and cancer cell lines and the function of the lamin A/C and B1 gene promoters in transfected cells. Northern analysis and immunoblotting demonstrated that lamin A/C mRNA and protein were not detectable in some human cell lines whereas lamin B1 was always present. Sequencing of approximately 2.6 kb of the lamin A/C and 1.6 kb of the lamin B1 genes 5' to the translation initiation sites showed that they did not contain typical TATA boxes near the transcription start sites. The lamin B1 and A/C proximal promoter regions were transcribed in transfected HeLa, Raji, and NT2/D1 cell lines even if the cells did not contain detectable endogenous lamin A/C mRNA or protein. These results show that, similar to most cytoplasmic intermediate filament genes, transcriptional regulatory elements in the promoters of the human nuclear lamin A/C and B1 genes do not control their cell type-specific expression in culture lines.