The structure and position of cis-acting DNA sequences which regulate tissue specific expression of the human neutrophil elastase (HNE) gene have been investigated. We have identified a positive and a negative regulatory element upstream from the promoter region. The ability of these sequences to regulate transcription in myeloid and non-myeloid cells was studied by inserting varying lengths of HNE 5′-flanking sequence into a reporter plasmid containing the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene. CAT activity in U937 was minimal in the absence of promoter and in the presence of HNE sequence to -102 bp. Inclusion of sequence up to -153 bp resulted in a 5.6-fold increase in CAT activity that was not observed in non-myeloid transfectants. Extension of the insert to include additional HNE sequence to -196 bp resulted in a decrease in CAT activity to control levels. © 1991.