The promoters of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae histone H3 and H4 genes were examined for cis-acting DNA sequence elements regulating transcription and cell division cycle control. Deletion and linker disruption mutations identified two classes of regulatory elements: multiple cell cycle activation (CCA) sites and a negative regulatory site (NRS). Duplicate 19-bp CCA sites are present in both the copy I and copy II histone H3-H4 promoters arranged as inverted repeats separated by 45 and 68 bp. The CCA sites are both necessary and sufficient to activate transcription under cell division cycle control. A single CCA site provides cell cycle control but is a weak transcriptional activator, while an inverted repeat comprising two CCA sites provides both strong transcriptional activation and cell division cycle control. The NRS was identified in the copy I histone H3-H4 promoter. Deletion or disruption of the NRS increased the level of the histone H3 promoter activity but did not alter the cell division cycle periodicity of transcription. When the CCA sites were deleted from the histone promoter, the NRS element was unable to confer cell division cycle control on the remaining basal level of transcription. When the NRS element was inserted into the promoter of a foreign reporter gene, transcription was constitutively repressed and did not acquire cell cycle regulation.