The chicken estrogen receptor exists in three interconvertible forms, two of which bind estradiol with high affinity and one which lacks the capacity to bind estradiol. Interconversion is regulated by reactions involving ATP/Mg2+. By cotransfecting into A431 cells estrogen receptor cDNA in an expression vector together with the pA2 (-821/-87) tk-CAT vitellogenin construct, we demonstrate that constitutive expression of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) activity can be regulated either by selection of ligand or by modifying phosphorylation reactions in the recipient cells. In the presence of estrogen receptors, constitutive expression of CAT activity is inhibited in three situations: (i) in the absence of an estrogenic ligand; (ii) in the presence of an anti-estrogen; and (iii) in the presence of an estrogenic ligand together with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA). Estrogen receptor mediated repression of constitutive CAT activity is not observed with the pA2 (-331/-87) tk-CAT construct, indicating that DNA sequences required for repression are located between -821 and -331 base pairs upstream of the transcription initiation site.