The minute virus of mice, an autonomous parvovirus, requires entry of host cells into the S phase of the cell cycle for its DNA to be amplified and its genes expressed. This work focuses on the P4 promoter of this parvovirus, which directs expression of the transcription unit encoding the parvoviral nonstructural polypeptides. These notably include protein NS1, necessary for the S-phase-dependent burst of parvoviral DNA amplification and gene expression. The activity of the P4 promoter is shown to be regulated in a cell cycle-dependent manner. At the G1/S-phase transition, the promoter is activated via a cis-acting DNA element which interacts with phase-specific complexes containing the cellular transcription factor E2F. It is inhibited, on the other hand, in cells arrested in G1 due to contact inhibition. This inhibitory effect is not observed in serum-starved cells. It is mediated in cis by cyclic AMP response elements (CREs). Unlike serum-starved cells, confluent cells accumulate the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27, suggesting that the switch from CRE-mediated activation to CRE-mediated repression involves the p27 protein. Accordingly, plasmid-driven overexpression of p27 causes down-modulation of promoter P4 in growing cells, depending on the presence of at least two functional CREs. No such effect is observed with two other cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, p16 and p21. Given the importance of P4-driven synthesis of protein NS1 in parvoviral DNA amplification and gene expression, the stringent S-phase dependency of promoter P4 is likely a major determinant of the absolute requirement of the minute virus of mice for host cell proliferation.