Expression of the CD95 (APO-1/Fas) ligand (CD95L) in activated T cells is a major cause of T cell activation-induced apoptosis. To study the molecular mechanisms of transcriptional control of CD95L expression in T cells, we investigated the human CD95L promoter in Jurkat T cells. Deletion studies revealed that the CD95L proximal promoter sequence from -220 to the transcription start site is essential for T cell stimulation-induced expression of CD95L. In this study, we discovered a novel regulatory element located at -120 of the CD95L promoter which contains DNA binding sites for SP-1 and a yet unknown inducible factor. Mutation analysis demonstrated that binding of the inducible factor to the -120 region is crucial for the biological function of the CD95L promoter upon T cell stimulation. The DNA sequence at -120 also contains two DNA motifs homologous to the binding site for NF-AT. NF-AT does not directly bind to this element. However, cotransfection studies with an NF-AT expression vector showed that NF-AT may confer a strong inducible activity to the CD95L promoter at this regulatory region. Our data also show that the immunosuppressive agent cyclosporin A down-regulates CD95L transcription by inhibiting the function of this positive regulatory element.