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Expression of the yeast pyrimidine biosynthetic gene, URA3, is induced three- to fivefold in response to uracil starvation, and this regulation is mediated by the transcriptional activator PPR1 (pyrimidine pathway regulator 1). In this study, we have analyzed the regulatory elements of the URA3 promoter by DNase I footprinting, using partially purified yeast cell extracts, by deletion mutagenesis, and by 5'-end mapping of RNA transcripts. Two DNA-binding activities have been detected, and at least four distinct cis-acting regions have been identified. A region rich in poly(dA-dT) serves as an upstream promoter element necessary for the basal level of URA3 expression. A 16-base-pair sequence with dyad symmetry acts acts as a uracil-controlled upstream activating site (UASURA) and shows a specific binding only with cell extracts from strains overproducing PPR1. This in vitro binding does not require dihydroorotic acid, the physiological inducer of URA3. The TATA region appears to be composed of two functionally distinct (constitutive and regulatory) elements. Two G + A-rich regions surrounding this TATA box bind an unidentified factor called GA-binding factor. The 5' copy, GA1, is involved in PPR1 induction and overlaps the constitutive TATA region. The 3' region, GA2, is necessary for maximal expression. Neither of these GA sequences acts as a UAS in a CYC1-lacZ context. The promoters of the unlinked but coordinately regulated URA1 and URA4 genes contain highly conserved copies of the UASURA sequence, which prompted us to investigate the effects of many point mutations within this UASURA sequence on PPR1-dependent binding. In this way, we have identified the most important residues of this binding site and found that a nonsymmetrical change of these bases is sufficient to prevent the specific binding and to suppress the UASURA activity in vivo. In addition, we showed that UASURA contains a constitutive activating element which can stimulate transcription from a heterologous promoter independently of dihydroorotic acid and PPR1.