The multigene family encoding the five classes of replication-dependent histones has been identified from the human and mouse genome sequence. The large cluster of histone genes, HIST1, on human chromosome 6 (6p21-p22) contains 55 histone genes, and Hist1 on mouse chromosome 13 contains 51 histone genes. There are two smaller clusters on human chromosome 1: HIST2 (at 1q21), which contains six genes, and HIST3 (at 1q42), which contains three histone genes. Orthologous Hist2 and Hist3 clusters are present on mouse chromosomes 3 and 11, respectively. The organization of the human and mouse histone genes in the HIST1 cluster is essentially identical. All of the histone H1 genes are in HIST1, which is spread over about 2 Mb. There are two large gaps (>250 kb each) within this cluster where there are no histone genes, but many other genes. Each of the histone genes encodes an mRNA that ends in a stemloop followed by a purine-rich region that is complementary to the 5' end of U7 snRNA. In addition to the histone genes on these clusters, only two other genes containing the stem-loop sequence were identified, a histone H4 gene on human chromosome 12 (mouse chromosome 6) and the previously described H2a.X gene located on human chromosome 11. Each of the 14 histone H4 genes encodes the same protein, and there are only three histone H3 proteins encoded by the 12 histone H3 genes in each species. In contrast, both the mouse and human H2a and H2b proteins consist of at least 10 non-allelic variants, making the complexity of the histone protein complement significantly greater than previously thought.