Interferons exert their biological function mainly through the activation of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs). ISG12 (originally designated p27) belongs to a family of small, interferon alpha inducible genes of unknown function. We have determined the 5' end sequence of ISG12 cDNA from the human cell lines HeLa and AMA by RACE. Comparing this sequence to ISG12 sequences in the expressed sequence tag (EST) database revealed the presence of two alternative splice variants of ISG12 in human cells exhibiting the same open reading frame. We have sequenced the promoter region of the ISG12 gene and found ISRE, IRF1/IRF2, and STAT elements correlating to the interferon alpha inducibility of the gene. Subsequently, we have expressed human ISG12, a 12-kDa hydrophobic protein in the baculovirus expression system and with a C-terminal FLAG-tag in the human cell line 293. Recombinant ISG12 sediments in the nuclear envelope in both cell types. Finally, we have been able to demonstrate the prevalence of the ISG12 gene product in the nuclear envelope of HeLa cells treated with interferon alpha by immunocytochemical analyses. ISG12 is the first interferon induced protein found localizing to the nuclear envelope.