A novel cDNA, designated Imidazoline Receptor Antisera-Selected cDNA-1 (iras-1), encodes a 167-kD protein. Two of its predicted peptides (42-43 kD) are immunologically consistent with a previously reported 1(1)-imidazoline binding protein. In the present study, two forms of iras mRNA (6.0 and 9.5 kb) were quantified across fresh rat tissues. Highest levels were found in brain (almost exclusively 6.0 kb in size), followed by liver and lung (9.5 > or = 6.0 kb iras mRNA), kidney (6.0 > 9.5 kb), heart (6.0 kb), spleen (6.0 > or = 9.5 kb), testes (6.0 > 9.5 kb), and skeletal muscle (6.0 > 9.5 kb). A correlation exists (p = 0.71, p = 0.05) between total (6.0 + 9.5 kb) iras mRNA and I1 BMAX values across rat tissues, corrected for housekeeping gene expression. Thus, total iras mRNA appears to be roughly proportional to the density of I1-imidazoline binding sites.