In earlier studies, we identified short (6- to 22-nt) sequences that functioned as internal ribosome entry sites (IRESes) and enhanced translation. The size of these IRES elements suggested that they might be prevalent within the messenger population and that individual elements might affect the translation of different groups of mRNAs. To begin to assess the number of different IRES elements in mammalian cells, we have developed a powerful method that uses a positive feedback mechanism to amplify the activities of individual IRES elements. This method uses a vector that encodes a dicistronic mRNA with a reporter gene (Renilla luciferase or the EGFP) as the first cistron and the yeast Gal4/viral protein 16 (VP16) transcription factor as the second cistron. Transcription of this mRNA is driven by a minimal promoter containing four copies of the Gal4 upstream activation sequence. In this method, the presence of an IRES in the intercistronic region facilitates the translation of Gal4/VP16, which binds to the upstream activation sequences and triggers a positive feedback loop that escalates the production of dicistronic mRNA and Gal4/VP16. A corresponding increase in the translation of the first cistron (luciferase or EGFP) is monitored either by measuring luciferase activity or by using FACS. The latter enables IRES-positive cells to be isolated. We present tests of the feedback mechanism by using an IRES module from Gtx homeodomain mRNA and an IRES from hepatitis C virus and demonstrate the utility of this vector system for the screening, identification, and analysis of IRES elements.