Phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate induces a 3- and 10-fold induction of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) activity in HT1080 and HeLa cells, respectively, following transient transfection of a 336-base pair plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) promoter fragment linked to a CAT reporter gene. Substitution mutations in the regions encompassing nucleotides -78 to -69 (TGGGTGGGGC) or -61 to -54 (TGAGTTCA), but not in the regions -155 to -149 (TGCCTCA) or -84 to -76 (AGTGAGTGG) reduced this induction. Gel electrophoresis of double-stranded -65 to -50 oligonucleotides of the PAI-1 promoter region and nuclear extracts from Hela cells produced a gel shift pattern similar to that obtained with a AP-1 consensus oligomer, and excess unlabeled AP-1 oligomer reverted binding, suggesting that this region of the PAI-1 promoter is an AP-1-like binding site. Gel electrophoresis of double-stranded -82 to -65 oligonucleotides with HeLa nuclear extracts revealed a gel shift pattern of three bands; Sp1 consensus oligomer competed with the binding to two of these bands and AP-2 consensus sequence oligomer with the binding to the third band. The -82 to -65 oligomer also bound to purified AP-2 and Sp1 proteins. Southwestern blotting of HeLa nuclear extracts revealed that the labeled oligomer spanning region -82 to -65 bound to proteins with molecular masses of 52 and 72 kDa. Consensus AP-2 oligonucleotides competed for binding of the labeled -82 to -65 oligonucleotide to the 52-kDa protein, but consensus Sp-1 oligonucleotides did not compete for binding to the 72-kDa compound. The 72-kDa component binding to the -82 to -65 region may represent a new protein involved in transcriptional regulation.