In the present study, we investigated the mechanisms controlling constitutive transcription of collagenase-1 and its repression by all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) in the highly invasive metastatic and oestrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer cell line MDA231. A combination of in vivo and in vitro experiments that include DNAase I hypersensitivity assays, transient transfection of collagenase-1 promoter constructs, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays implicate several PEA3 sites, binding sites for Ets-related transcription factors, in the constitutive expression of the human collagenase-1 promoter. Transient transfection of promoter constructs linked to the luciferase reporter, along with gel retardation assays, revealed that repression of collagenase-1 transcription by RA is not dependent on the proximal AP-1 site, but, rather, requires sequences located in distal regions of the promoter. Transcriptional analyses and electrophoretic mobility shift assays suggest that the PEA3 site located at -3108 bp facilitates, at least in part, the transcriptional repression of the human collagenase-1 gene in MDA231 cells. We conclude that collagenase-1 repression in MDA231 cells occurs by a novel regulatory pathway that does not depend on the proximal AP-1 site at -73 bp, but does depend on distal regions in the collagenase-1 promoter.