A hybrid gene consisting of the human IFN-alpha 1 promoter and a beta-globin transcription unit is expressed correctly only after viral induction. To determine the region required for inducibility, 25 hybrid promoters consisting of varying upstream IFN-alpha 1 and downstream beta-globin promoter moieties were analyzed, and 5'-deletion analysis was performed on an inducible hybrid promoter. An IFN promoter region from position -109 to -64 conferred maximal inducibility on downstream beta-globin promoter segments and even on the intact beta-globin promoter. This region is strikingly conserved among human IFN-alpha and -beta genes. As constitutive expression of the beta-globin gene was not diminished by placing IFN promoter fragments in various positions, induction is attributed largely to positive, rather than to negative control.