Gene expression was investigated during anoxia exposure in the marine snail, Littorina littorea. Differential screening of a cDNA library made from hepatopancreas of anoxic L. littorea yielded a 525 bp clone coding for the novel gene kvn. The deduced amino acid sequence of the KVN protein contained 99 amino acid residues with a predicted molecular weight of 12 kDa and showed an N-terminal secretory signal. Analysis of hepatopancreas samples over a time course of anoxia exposure showed a maximum increase in transcript levels of 5.8-fold after 48 h relative to normoxic animals, with a subsequent decrease in transcript levels during normoxic recovery. Nuclear run-off assays confirmed the observed transcriptional up-regulation of kvn during anoxia. Organ culture experiments were performed to determine a possible pathway of up-regulation of kvn, with data indicating a putative role for cGMP in signal transduction. Profiles of ribosome distribution in polysomes versus monosomes revealed a reduction in the polysome peak during anoxia and a shift in the position of kvn transcripts to association with the lower density polysome/higher density monosome region. The data suggest that the kvn transcript is both transcribed and translated during anoxia, indicating a possible significant role for the KVN protein in the survival of anoxia by L. littorea.