TBP, the TATA-box binding protein, plays a key role in eukaryotic gene transcription since it is required for transcription initiation by all three eukaryotic nuclear DNA-dependent RNA polymerases. In order to gain insight into the mechanisms of regulation of this key basal transcription factor, we undertook a mutational analysis of the sequences involved in directing transcription of the gene encoding TBP in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. An extensive family of mutations in the promoter of the gene encoding TBP were fused to the Escherichia coli reporter gene lacZ, transferred back into yeast, and assayed for their ability to direct expression of beta-galactosidase. Levels of beta-galactosidase activity measured from yeast transformed with this family of constructs indicate that both positive- and negative-acting cis-elements located within 400 nucleotides of the transcription start site are involved in regulating transcription of the TBP-encoding gene. Analyses of RNA prepared from these same cells showed that specific transcription initiation is maintained in the mutant reporter constructs and that RNA levels mirror beta-galactosidase levels. In order to corroborate the results of these mutational analyses of the TBP-encoding gene, in vivo cis-element occupancy was examined using several different footprinting reagents. The patterns of protection observed demonstrated that the sequence elements implicated in the control of TBP gene transcription by reporter gene analyses appear to be bound by protein(s) in vivo. Interesting sequence similarities were noted between two TBP-gene regulatory elements and 5'-flanking sequences of genes encoding several other basal transcription factors.