Cyp26A1 is a major enzyme that controls retinoic acid (RA) homeostasis by metabolizing RA into bio-inactive metabolites. Previously, we demonstrated that zebrafish cyp26a1 promoter possesses two conserved RA response elements (RAREs; proximal R1 and distal R2) in response to RA. Here, we report that it contains a novel RARE (R3) lying between R1 and R2. Mutagenesis analysis reveals that R3 works together with R1 and R2 to ensure the maximum RA inducibility of cyp26a1 promoter. Performing electrophoretic mobility shift assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, we show that RA receptor alpha can bind the novel RARE. Creating and analyzing transgenic zebrafish of Tg(cyp26a1-R3mut:eYFP)nju3/+ that harbor enhanced yellow fluorescent protein reporter gene (eYFP) driven by cyp26a1 promoter with mutated R3, we demonstrate that the reporter is mainly expressed in tissues of endogenous RA independent but not regions of RA dependent. Like Tg(cyp26a1:eYFP)nju1/+, which harbor eYFP driven by wild-type cyp26a1 promoter, the reporter in Tg(cyp26a1-R3mut:eYFP)nju3/+ responds to excessive RA dose dependently. However, it is expressed in a significantly lower level than the reporter in Tg(cyp26a1:eYFP)nju1/+ in response to exogenous RA. Taken together, our results demonstrate that zebrafish cyp26a1 promoter contains a novel RARE that plays crucial roles in regulating cyp26a1 expression during early development of zebrafish. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.