This study demonstrates the presence of positive and negative regulatory elements within a 2336-base pair-long region of the rat choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene promoter that cooperate to direct cell type-specific expression in cholinergic cells. A 21-base pair-long neuron-restrictive silencer element (NRSE) was identified in the proximal part of this region. This element was recognized by the neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF), previously shown to regulate expression of other neuron-specific genes. The ChAT NRSE was inactive in both cholinergic and non-cholinergic neuronal cells, but repressed expression from a heterologous promoter in non-neuronal cells. Specific deletion of this element allowed ChAT gene promoter activity in non-neuronal cells, and overexpression of NRSF repressed ChAT gene promoter activity in cholinergic cells. The distal part of the ChAT gene promoter showed cholinergic-specific enhancing activity, which stimulated promoter activity in cholinergic cells, but was inactive in non-cholinergic neuronal and non-neuronal cells. This enhancer region suppressed the activity of the ChAT NRSE in cholinergic cells, even after NRSF overexpression. Thus, at least two kinds of regulatory elements cooperate to direct ChAT gene expression to cholinergic neurons, namely a neuron-restrictive silencer element and a cholinergic-specific enhancer.