Transcription controls active at the initial stages of meiosis are clearly key elements in the regulation of germinal differentiation. Transcription of the Sycp1 gene (synaptonemal complex protein 1) starts as early as the leptotene and zygotene stages. Constructs with Sycp1 5' upstream sequences directed the expression of reporter genes to pachytene spermatocytes in transgenic mice. A short fragment encompassing the transcription start (n.t. -54 to +102) was sufficient for stage-specific expression in the adult male and for temporal regulation during development. Upstream enhancer element(s) quantitatively regulating expression were localized in the region between -54 and -260. The gene is normally expressed both in the male and female gonads, but none of the promoter sequences active in the testis allowed the expression of reporter genes during meiosis in the ovary.