Expression of MyoD, myogenin, MRF4, and Myf-5 converts nonmuscle cells to muscle cells. In an attempt to analyze the roles of these factors, we have investigated their effects on transcription driven by the promoter of the chicken myosin alkaline light-chain (MLC1) gene. The activation by CMD1 or c- myogenin (chicken MyoD or myogenin, respectively) was dependent on the existence of a muscle-specific regulatory region located from positions - 2096 to -1743. Its distal half, containing a pair of E boxes (CANNTG), had been previously characterized as an enhancer responsive to CMD1 but not to c- myogenin. In this study, we report the identification of another enhancer in the muscle-specific regulatory region which is preferentially responsive to c-myogenin. Deletion and mutation analyses indicated that this enhancer requires a single E box and its flanking sequences. Furthermore, analysis of chimeric proteins of CMD1 and c-myogenin indicated that regions outside the basic helix-loop-helix domain of c-myogenin are involved in the specificity of the enhancer. These results show that CMD1 and c-myogenin act on the MLC1 gene by recognizing different upstream DNA sequences and that direct or indirect interactions between the regions outside the basic helix-loop-helix domain and flanking sequences of E boxes are involved in the target sequence specificity.