The 5' flanking regions of the mouse renin genes (Ren1d and Ren2d) contain putative negative control and cAMP responsive elements. Sequence analysis shows additionally that these putative control elements in the Ren2d gene are interrupted by a 160-base-pair insertion. To document the functions of these elements, we isolated these regions and fused them to the reporter gene chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT), which was linked upstream to a thymidine kinase (TK) promoter (pUTKAT1). The chimeric constructs were transfected into mouse pituitary tumor AtT-20 and human choriocarcinoma JEG-3 cells. At the basal unstimulated condition, Ren1d 5' flanking sequence in the sense orientation inhibited basal CAT expression from the TK promoter of pUTKAT1, whereas the same sequence in the antisense orientation did not. The 5' flanking region of Ren2d had no inhibitory effect on basal CAT expression. These data demonstrate that the negative control element is functional in Ren1d but is nonfunctional in Ren2d, suggesting that the 160-base-pair insertion in Ren2d interferes with the function of the negative control elements. In response to 8-bromo-cAMP, both renin genes increased transcription 3-fold, suggesting a functional cis action of the cAMP responsive element in both genes. These data may be important in the understanding of the regulation of the tissue-specific expression of mouse renin genes.