© 2018, © 2018 The Royal Society of New Zealand. In the heterocyst-forming cyanobacterium Anabaena (also Nostoc) sp. strain PCC 7120, the nitrogen-fixation (nif) genes are expressed specifically in heterocysts during the late stages of development. We used gfp-reporter fusions to examine the regulation of the nifH and nifD genes. Plasmid-borne reporter fusions containing up to 500-bp of the nifH upstream region, which extended into the nifU gene, did not show developmentally regulated GFP fluorescence after removal of a nitrogen source from the growth medium, which indicated that sequences essential for transcriptional regulation are outside of the tested regions. Therefore, a gfp-reporter fusion was engineered into the chromosome at the 5′ end of nifD to produce strain AMC1774. This reporter construct at the native locus showed strong developmentally regulated GFP expression in differentiating heterocysts by 18 h after removal of combined nitrogen. We then screened for UV-induced mutants of AMC1774 that differentiated heterocysts but failed to show GFP-reporter fluorescence. Several dark mutants were obtained and then complemented with an expression library. One mutant was complemented with a clone that contained the xisF and alr1460 genes. The xisF gene is required for excision of a 59,428-bp DNA element present within the fdxN gene in the nifB-fdxN-nifS-nifU gene cluster, which is upstream of the nifHDK gene cluster. Analysis of the original UV-induced mutant showed that it was defective for excision of the fdxN DNA element. Together, our data shows that transcription of the nifHDK genes requires a distant promoter upstream of the fdxN DNA element. We used a gfp transcriptional reporter to demonstrate developmentally regulated promoter activity from the intergenic region upstream of nifB. We also show that the promoter for a second nifH gene, nifH2 (alr0874), lies proximal to nifH2 in its upstream intergenic region.