Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) can be expressed by many types of mammalian cells in response to diverse signals acting synergistically, including cytokines and microbial products. We previously showed that induction of iNOS in mouse macrophages by interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was at the transcriptional level. From a mouse genomic library, we now cloned a 1,749-bp fragment from the 5'-flanking region of the iNOS gene, and used S1 nuclease mapping and primer extension to identify the mRNA transcription start site within it. The mRNA initiation site is preceded by a TATA box and at least 22 oligonucleotide elements homologous to consensus sequences for the binding of transcription factors involved in the inducibility of other genes by cytokines or bacterial products. These include 10 copies of IFN-gamma response element; 3 copies of gamma-activated site; 2 copies each of nuclear factor-kappa B, IFN-alpha-stimulated response element, activating protein 1, and tumor necrosis factor response element; and one X box. Plasmids in which all or the downstream one half or one third of this region of iNOS were linked to a reporter gene encoding chloramphenicol acetyltransferase were transfected into cells of the RAW264.7 macrophage-like line. All these constructs conferred inducibility of the iNOS promoter by LPS, but only the construct containing all 1,749 bp conferred synergistic inducibility by IFN-gamma plus LPS.