A novel sequence-specific DNA-binding protein, CTCF, which interacts with the chicken c-myc gene promoter, has been identified and partially characterized (V. V. Lobanenkov, R. H. Nicolas, V. V. Adler, H. Paterson, E. M. Klenova, A. V. Polotskaja, and G. H. Goodwin, Oncogene 5:1743-1753, 1990). In order to test directly whether binding of CTCF to one specific DNA region of the c-myc promoter is important for chicken c-myc transcription, we have determined which nucleotides within this GC-rich region are responsible for recognition of overlapping sites by CTCF and Sp1-like proteins. Using missing-contact analysis of all four nucleotides in both DNA strands and homogeneous CTCF protein purified by sequence-specific chromatography, we have identified three sets of nucleotides which contact either CTCF or two Sp1-like proteins binding within the same DNA region. Specific mutations of 3 of 15 purines required for CTCF binding were designed to eliminate binding of CTCF without altering the binding of other proteins. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay of nuclear extracts showed that the mutant DNA sequence did not bind CTCF but did bind two Sp1-like proteins. When introduced into a 3.3-kbp-long 5'-flanking noncoding c-myc sequence fused to a reporter CAT gene, the same mutation of the CTCF binding site resulted in 10- and 3-fold reductions, respectively, of transcription in two different (erythroid and myeloid) stably transfected chicken cell lines. Isolation and analysis of the CTCF cDNA encoding an 82-kDa form of CTCF protein shows that DNA-binding domain of CTCF is composed of 11 Zn fingers: 10 are of C2H2 class, and 1 is of C2HC class. CTCF was found to be abundant and conserved in cells of vertebrate species. We detected six major nuclear forms of CTCF protein differentially expressed in different chicken cell lines and tissues. We conclude that isoforms of 11-Zn-finger factor CTCF which are present in chicken hematopoietic HD3 and BM2 cells can act as a positive regulator of the chicken c-myc gene transcription. Possible functions of other CTCF forms are discussed.