CD154 (CD40 ligand) expression on CD4 T cells is normally tightly controlled, but abnormal or dysregulated expression of CD154 has been well documented in autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Beyond regulation by NFAT proteins, little is known about the transcriptional activation of the CD154 promoter. We identified a species-conserved purine-rich sequence located adjacent to the CD154 transcriptional promoter proximal NFAT site, which binds early growth response (Egr) transcription factors. Gel shift assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays reveal that Egr-1, Egr-3, and NFAT1 present in primary human CD4 T cells are capable of binding this combinatorial site in vitro and in vivo, respectively. Multimerization of this NFAT/Egr sequence in the context of a reporter gene demonstrates this sequence is transcriptionally active upon T cell activation in primary human CD4 T cells. Overexpression of Egr-1, but not Egr-3, is capable of augmenting transcription of this reporter gene as well as that of an intact CD154 promoter. Conversely, overexpression of small interfering RNA specific for Egr-1 in primary human CD4 T cells inhibits CD154 expression. Similarly, upon activation, CD154 message is notably decreased in splenic CD4 T cells from Egr-1-deficient mice compared with wild-type controls. Our data demonstrate that Egr-1 is required for CD154 transcription in primary CD4 T cells. This has implications for selective targeting of Egr family members to control abnormal expression of CD154 in autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Copyright © 2006 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.