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Members of the GATA family of transcription factors, which are related by a high degree of amino acid sequence identity within their zinc finger DNA-binding domains, each show distinct but overlapping patterns of tissue-restricted expression. Although GATA-1, -2, and -3 have been shown to recognize a consensus sequence derived from regulatory elements in erythroid cell-specific genes, WGATAR (in which W indicates A/T and R indicates A/G), the potential for more subtle differences in the binding preferences of each factor has not been previously addressed. By employing a binding selection and polymerase chain reaction amplification scheme with randomized oligonucleotides, we have determined the binding-site specificities of bacterially expressed chicken GATA-1, -2, and -3 transcription factors. Whereas all three GATA factors bind an AGATAA erythroid consensus motif with high affinity, a second, alternative consensus DNA sequence, AGATCTTA, is also recognized well by GATA-2 and GATA-3 but only poorly by GATA-1. These studies suggest that all three GATA factors are capable of mediating transcriptional effects via a common erythroid consensus DNA-binding motif. Furthermore, GATA-2 and GATA-3, because of their distinct expression patterns and broader DNA recognition properties, may be involved in additional regulatory processes beyond those of GATA-1. The definition of an alternative GATA-2-GATA-3 consensus sequence may facilitate the identification of new target genes in the further elucidation of the roles that these transcription factors play during development.