Terminal differentiation of keratinocytes involves the sequential expression of several major proteins which can be identified in distinct cellular layers within the mammalian epidermis and are characteristic for the maturation state of the keratinocyte. Many of the corresponding genes are clustered in one specific human chromosomal region 1q21. It is rare in the genome to find in such close proximity the genes belonging to at least three structurally different families, yet sharing spatial and temporal expression specificity, as well as interdependent functional features. This DNA segment, termed the epidermal differentiation complex, contains 27 genes, 14 of which are specifically expressed during calcium-dependent terminal differentiation of keratinocytes (the majority being structural protein precursors of the cornified envelope) and the other 13 belong to the S100 family of calcium binding proteins with possible signal transduction roles in the differentiation of epidermis and other tissues. In order to provide a bacterial clone resource that will enable further studies of genomic structure, transcriptional regulation, function and evolution of the epidermal differentiation complex, as well as the identification of novel genes, we have constructed a single 2.45 Mbp long continuum of genomic DNA cloned as 45 p1 artificial chromosomes, three bacterial artificial chromosomes, and 34 cosmid clones. The map encompasses all of the 27 genes so far assigned to the epidermal differentiation complex, and integrates the physical localization of these genes at a high resolution on a complete NotI and SalI, and a partial EcoRI restriction map. This map will be the starting resource for the large-scale genomic sequencing of this region by The Sanger Center, Hinxton, U.K.