We have isolated a rat gene, sbk, that encodes a novel serine/threonine protein kinase possessing a consensus sequence for an SH3-binding domain from developing rat brain. Rat SBK comprises 417 amino-acid residues consisting of a serine/threonine protein kinase consensus sequence followed by a C-terminal proline-rich region. Sequence comparison with other known kinases revealed that sbk belongs to a novel family of serine/threonine protein kinases structurally related to a Xenopus gastrula-specific protein kinase, Pk9.7. An in vitro kinase assay demonstrated that the SBK protein autophosphorylates at serine/threonine residues. Transcripts of sbk were strongly detected in brain, and the distribution shows an association with neurons but not glial cells. A marked increase in sbk transcripts was observed in developing brain in the late embryonic stage when dramatic neuronal proliferation, migration, and maturation occur. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis was used to map sbk to mouse chromosome 7F1-F3 and rat chromosome 1q21. These data suggest a role for SBK in signal-transduction pathways related to the control of brain development.