In this report we demonstrate that C/EBP beta is a major component of three EFII DNA binding complexes, EFIIa, EFIIb, and EFIIc, which we have previously shown to specifically recognize a C/EBP consensus binding site found in the EFII enhancer sequence from the Rous sarcoma virus long terminal repeat (R. C. Sears and L. Sealy, J. Virol. 66:6338-6352, 1992). Three different forms of C/EBP beta, p42, p35, and p20, can bind the EFII DNA sequence as homodimers, and dimerization experiments show that EFIIa is a homodimer of p20 C/EBP beta, EFIIb is primarily composed of a p20/p35 heterodimer with minor amounts of p20/p42 heterodimer and p35 homodimer, and EFIIc is composed of p20 and/or p35 heterodimerized with a novel 60-kDa protein. p20 C/EBP beta is likely equivalent to the internally initiated translation product of C/EBP beta, LIP (liver inhibitor protein), described by P. Descombes and U. Schibler (Cell 67:569-579, 1991). In contrast to the low level of LIP expressed in liver, postulated to occur because of leaky ribosome scanning, we found high levels of expression of p20 C/EBP beta in fibroblasts and lymphocytes. In murine fibroblasts, p20 C/EBP beta has an extended half-life, four times longer than those of p42 and p35 C/EBP beta, which could contribute to its abundant accumulation in this cell type, even though its synthesis by leaky ribosome scanning might be inefficient. Interestingly, overexpression of either the long or short form of C/EBP beta represses EFII-mediated transcription, suggesting that another unidentified EFII transactivator(s) exists, which may be dominantly inhibited by C/EBP beta proteins, and/or that transactivation by C/EBP beta proteins requires posttranslational modifications that were lacking in the transient overexpression experiments.