We examined expression of nuclear factor-1 (NF-1) in different cell lines. Expression was low or undetectable in T and B lymphocyte cell lines, whereas fibroblasts and other adherent cell lines generally had a relatively high level of NF-1 mRNA. In cell lines that did not express NF-1, gel retardation assays, nevertheless, indicated complexes between a protein or proteins and the NF-1 site. These complexes were less abundant than those formed with NF-1, they migrated more slowly, and they appeared as single species instead of the multiple species observed with NF-1. NF-1 sitebinding proteins were compared in the fibrosarcoma cell line HT-1080 (expressed the highest level of NF-1 in our study) and the B cell line Raji (does not express NF-1). UV-crosslinking studies indicated that the NF-1 site-binding proteins in both cell lines were similar in size. Proteolytic clipping band shift assays suggested that the Raji protein and NF-1 share structural similarity in their DNA binding domains, but are distinct proteins. The NF-1 site mediated transcriptional stimulation in cell lines where NF-1 is expressed; however, this element did not affect transcription in cell lines that do not express NF-1, suggesting that the NF-1 site-binding protein in these cells is functionally distinct from NF-1.