Early ocular development is controlled by a complex network of transcription factors, cell cycle regulators, and diffusible signalling molecules. Together, these molecules regulate cell proliferation and apoptosis, and specify retinal fate. NKX5-3 is a homeobox transcription factor implicated in eye development. The analysis of the 5'-flanking region of the mouse Nkx5-3 gene revealed a predicted TATA-less promoter sequence between -416 and - 166 of the translation start site. To functionally characterise NW-3 promoter activity serial deletions of the promoter sequence were introduced in pGL-3 basic vector and promoter activity of these 5'- and 3'-deleted constructions was tested in HeLa and CHO cells. Transactivation assays identified a region between -350 and -296 exhibiting promoter-like activity. Combined analysis by deletions and point mutations showed that this sequence, containing multiple Spl binding sites was necessary to promote transcriptional activity. Binding of Spl to this region was confirmed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation, using an antibody specific for Spl. Altogether, these results demonstrated that the immediate upstream region of Nkx5-3 gene possessed a strong intrinsic promoter activity in vitro, suggesting a potential role in Nkx5-3 transcription in vivo. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.