LEU3 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae encodes an 886-amino-acid polypeptide that regulates transcription of a group of genes involved in leucine biosynthesis and has been shown to bind specifically to a 114-base-pair DNA fragment of the LEU2 upstream region (P. Friden and P. Schimmel, Mol. Cell. Biol. 7:2707-2717, 1987). We show here that, in addition to LEU2, LEU3 binds in vitro to sequences in the promoter regions of LEU1, LEU4, ILV2, and, by inference, ILV5. The largely conserved decanucleotide core sequence shared by the binding sites in these genes is CCGGNNCCGG. Methylation interference footprinting experiments show that LEU3 makes symmetrical contacts with the conserved bases that lie in the major groove. Synthetic oligonucleotides (19 to 29 base pairs) which contain the core decanucleotide and flanking sequences of LEU1, LEU2, LEU4, and ILV2 have individually been placed upstream of a LEU3-insensitive test promoter. The expression of each construction is activated by LEU3, although the degree of activation varies considerably according to the specific oligonucleotide which is introduced. A promoter construction with substitutions in the core sequence remains LEU3 insensitive, however. One of the oligonucleotides (based on a LEU2 sequence) was also tested and shown to confer leucine-sensitive expression on the test promoter. The results demonstrate that only a short sequence element is necessary for LEU3-dependent promoter binding and activation and provide direct evidence for an expanded repertoire of genes that are activated by LEU3.