The ets family of transcription factors comprises many members which contribute to diverse cellular functions that vary depending upon the cell- and tissue-type context. Recently, different groups have identified a novel member of the ets family that is epithelial-specific. Variably called ESE-1, ERT, jen, ESX, this gene is designated currently as ELF3. In order to understand transcriptional regulatory mechanisms mediated by ELF3, we investigated its effect on the human keratin 4 gene promoter based upon the role of keratin 4 in early differentiation of the esophageal squamous epithelium. Interestingly, ELF3 suppressed basal keratin 4 promoter activity in both esophageal and cervical epithelial cancer cell lines, a novel result, while simultaneously activating the late-differentiation linked SPRR2A promoter. Furthermore, serial deletion constructs of the keratin 4 promoter continued to be suppressed by ELF3, a phenomenon that was only partially rescued by ELF3 ets domain mutants, but completely abrogated by deletion of the ELF3 pointed domain. These results suggest that ELF3 may have dual functions in the transcriptional regulation of genes involved in squamous epithelial differentiation. One of these functions may not be exclusively mediated through DNA binding in the context of transcriptional suppression of the keratin 4 promoter.