The assembly of Ag receptor genes by V(D)J recombination is regulated by transcriptional promoters and enhancers which control chromatin accessibility at Ig and TCR gene segments to the RAG-1/RAG-2 recombinase complex. Paradoxically, germline deletions of the IgH enhancer (Emu) only modestly reduce D(H)-->J(H) rearrangements when assessed in peripheral B cells. However, deletion of Emu severely impairs recombination of V(H) gene segments, which are located over 100 kb away. We now test two alternative explanations for the minimal effect of Emu deletions on primary D(H)-->J(H) rearrangement: 1) Accessibility at the D(H)J(H) cluster is controlled by a redundant cis-element in the absence of Emu. One candidate for this element lies 5' to D(Q52) (PD(Q52)) and exhibits promoter/enhancer activity in pre-B cells. 2) In contrast to endpoint B cells, D(H)-->J(H) recombination may be significantly impaired in pro-B cells from enhancer-deficient mice. To elucidate the roles of PD(Q52) and Emu in the regulation of IgH locus accessibility, we generated mice with targeted deletions of these elements. We report that the defined PD(Q52) promoter is dispensable for germline transcription and recombination of the D(H)J(H) cluster. In contrast, we demonstrate that Emu directly regulates accessibility of the D(H)J(H) region. These findings reveal a significant role for Emu in the control mechanisms that activate IgH gene assembly and suggest that impaired V(H)-->D(H)J(H) rearrangement in enhancer-deficient cells may be a downstream consequence of the primary block in D(H)-->J(H) recombination.