Small nuclear RNA (snRNA) genes contain strong promoters capable of initiating transcription once every 4 s. Studies on the human U1 snRNA gene, carried out in other laboratories, showed that sequences within 400 bp of the 5' flanking region are sufficient for maximal levels of transcription both in vivo and in frog oocytes [reviewed in Dahlberg and Lund (1988)]. We studied the expression of a human U3 snRNA gene by injecting 5' deletion mutants into frog oocytes. The results show that sequences more than 500 bp upstream of the U3 snRNA gene have a 2-3-fold stimulatory effect on the U3 snRNA synthesis. These results indicate that the human U3 snRNA gene is different from human U1 snRNA gene in containing regulatory elements more than 500 bp upstream. The U3 snRNA gene upstream sequences contain an AluI homologous sequence in the -1200 region; these AluI sequences were transcribed in vitro and in frog oocytes but were not detectable in HeLa cells.