We recently isolated a novel member of the Ets transcription factor/oncogene family, ESE-1/ESX/ELF3, with features distinct from any other Ets-related factor. ELF3 is the prototype of a new subclass of Ets factors, contains two DNA-binding domains, and, in contrast to any known Ets factor, is expressed exclusively in epithelial cells. ELF3 expression is induced during differentiation of the epidermis, indicating a role in the regulation of terminal differentiation genes in the epidermis. Due to the important role that other Ets factors play in cellular differentiation, ELF3 is expected to be a critical regulator of epithelial gene expression. We report here the cloning and the structural organization of the human ELF3 gene. The human ELF3 gene contains nine exons, which span approximately 5.8 kb of genomic DNA. Intron/exon borders and number of exons are almost identical to those in the mouse ELF3 gene. Comparison of the immediate promoter regions of the human and mouse ELF3 genes demonstrates the presence of TATA and CCAAT boxes as well as potential binding sites for Ets factors and NF-kappaB. Transfection experiments demonstrate that a 1.5-kb fragment of the 5' upstream region acts as a strong promoter in two epithelial cell lines.