The mouse kappa opioid receptor (KOR) gene is constitutively expressed in mouse embryonal carcinoma P19 stem cells and suppressed by retinoic acid (RA) in cells undergoing neuronal differentiation. A negative regulatory element is located within intron 1 of the KOR gene, which contains an Ikaros (Ik)-binding site (GG-GAAgGGGAT). This sequence is an Ik-1 respondive, functionally negative element as demonstrated in the context of both natural KOR and heterologous promoters. The two underlined G residues of the second half-site are critical for Ik-1 binding and Ik-mediated repression of the KOR gene. RA induces Ik-1 expression within 1 day of treatment and suppresses KOR expression between 2 and 3 days. Overexpression of Ik-1 in P19 suppresses endogenous KOR gene expression, accompanied by increased binding of Ik-1 to the Ik-binding site and chromatin histone deacetylation on KOR promoters. It is proposed that in an RA-induced P19 differentiation model, RA elevates Ik-1 expression, which recruits histone deacetylase to intron 1 of the KOR gene and silences KOR gene promoters.