The mouse protein tyrosine phosphatase-like gene (Ptpla) was recently cloned and data suggested that it plays a role in myogenesis and cardiogenesis. The human homologue (PTPLA) was mapped to chromosome 10p13-14, a region where we have mapped a locus responsible for arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). As a positional candidate gene, we characterized PTPLA by determining its tissue expression, its genomic structure, and we also screened for mutations in the ARVD patients. Northern analysis demonstrated PTPLA is preferentially expressed in both adult and fetal heart. A much lower expression was detected in skeletal and smooth muscle tissues. Virtually no expression was observed in other tissues. The protein-encoding sequences of PTPLA consist of seven exons. A sequence variation (Lys64Gln) was found in all the affecteds in a large ARVD family. However, the same variant was also detected in normal control subjects (three alleles/100 chromosomes). Thus, the variant (Lys64Gln) is not responsible for ARVD in our family and is a benign polymorphism. Nevertheless, its tissue-specific expression in the developing and adult heart suggest PTPLA has a role in regulating cardiac development, differentiation, or other cellular events. The genomic structure and intragenic polymorphism of PTPLA should be useful for further clinical and genetic studies such as gene targeting of PTPLA.