The insulin gene is expressed exclusively in pancreatic islet beta cells. The principal regulator of insulin gene transcription in the islet is the concentration of circulating glucose. Previous studies have demonstrated that transcription is regulated by the binding of trans-acting factors to specific cis-acting sequences within the 5'-flanking region of the insulin gene. To identify the cis-acting control elements within the rat insulin II gene that are responsible for regulating glucose-stimulated expression in the beta cell, we analyzed the effect of glucose on the in vivo expression of a series of transfected 5'-flanking deletion mutant constructs. We demonstrate that glucose-induced transcription of the rat insulin II gene is mediated by sequences located between -126 and -91 bp relative to the transcription start site. This region contains two cis-acting elements that are essential for directing pancreatic beta-cell-type-specific expression of the rat insulin II gene, the insulin control element (ICE; -100 to -91 bp) and RIPE3b1 (-115 to -107 bp). The gel mobility shift assay was used to determine whether the formation of the ICE- and RIPE3b1-specific factor-DNA element complexes were affected in glucose-treated beta-cell extracts. We found that RIPE3b1 binding activity was selectively induced by about eightfold. In contrast, binding to other insulin cis-acting element sequences like the ICE and RIPE3a2 (-108 to -99 bp) were unaffected by these conditions. The RIPE3b1 binding complex was shown to be distinct from the glucose-inducible factor that binds to an element located between -227 to -206 bp of the human and rat insulin I genes (D. Melloul, Y. Ben-Neriah, and E. Cerasi, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90:3865-3869, 1993). We have also shown that mannose, a sugar that can be metabolized by the beta cell, mimics the effects of glucose in the in vivo transfection assays and the in vitro RIPE3b1 binding assays. These results suggested that the RIPE3b1 transcription factor is a primary regulator of glucose-mediated transcription of the insulin gene. However, we found that mutations in either the ICE or the RIPE3b1 element reduced glucose-responsive expression from transfected 5'-flanking rat insulin II gene constructs. We therefore conclude that glucose-regulated transcription of the insulin gene is mediated by cis-acting elements required for beta-cell-type-specific expression.