Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD), the initial and rate-limiting enzyme in the 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) catabolic pathway, has been implicated as one of the factors determining the efficacy and toxicity of the anticancer agent 5-FU. Studies have attributed variation in DPD activity partially to alterations at the transcriptional level of DPYD gene. We investigated the transcription factors implicated in the constitutive expression of DPYD by utilizing a 174-bp fragment of the DPYD promoter region in which three consensus Sp protein binding sites (SpA, SpB and SpC) were predicted. The binding of Sp1 and Sp3 transcription factors to this region was detected by electrophoretic mobility shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. By ectopically expressing human Sp1 and Sp3 in Sp-deficient Drosophila S2 cells, we demonstrated that Sp1 is a strong activator, while Sp3 by its own is a weak activator of the DPYD promoter. Moreover, Sp3 may serve as a competitor of Sp1, thus decreasing the Sp1 induced promoter activity. SpA, SpB and SpC sites are all Sp1 inducible. In the full activation of the DPYD promoter in human cell lines, the SpB site is essential; the SpC site works cooperatively with SpB, while SpA has minor promoter activity. These studies provide further insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying the heterogeneity of DPD activity, and may facilitate the efficacy and safety of 5-FU-based chemotherapy.