Phospholipase C-beta (PLC beta) catalyses the generation of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP(3)) and diacylglycerol (DAG) from phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (IP(2)), a key step in the intracellular transduction of a large number of extracellular signals, including neurotransmitters and hormones modulating diverse developmental and functional aspects of the mammalian central nervous system. Four mammalian isozymes are known (PLC beta 1-4), which differ in their function and expression patterns in vivo. We have characterized the human PLC beta 1 genomic locus (PLC beta 1), cloned two distinct PLC beta 1 cDNAs (PLC beta 1a and b) and analysed their respective expression patterns in a comprehensive panel of human tissues using quantitative TaqMan technology. The two cDNAs derive from transcripts generated through alternative splicing at their 3' end, and are predicted to encode for PLC beta 1 isoforms differing at their carboxy-terminus. The human PLC beta 1 isoforms are co-expressed in the same tissues with a distinctly CNS-specific profile of expression. Quantitative differences in PLC beta 1 isoform expression levels are observed in some tissues. Transient expression of epitope-tagged versions of the two isoforms followed by immunofluorescence revealed localization of the proteins to the cytoplasm and the inner side of the cell membrane. Finally, we characterized the structure of the PLC beta 1 locus and confirmed its mapping to human chromosome 20.