Although human DNA polymerase beta (DNA pol beta) shows 96% identity with rat DNA pol beta at the amino acid level, it is weakly expressed in Escherichia (E.) coli relative to the rat enzyme. The mechanism of this suppression was investigated. Pulse-chase protein labeling and steady state mRNA analysis showed that mature human DNA pol beta protein is relatively stable in E. coli and the levels of human and rat DNA pol beta mRNA were comparable indicating that the human DNA pol beta expression is suppressed at the translational level. By systematic expression analysis of a number of chimeric genes composed of human and rat cDNAs, two strong translational suppression regions were mapped in the human DNA pol beta mRNA; one was named TSR-1, corresponding to CGG encoding arginine (arg) at position 4 and the other, termed TSR-2, is located between codons 153 and 199. Since substitution of the rat Arg-4 codon with synonymous codons showed strong effects upon the expression level, we propose that the arg codon at the N-terminal coding region plays a role in modulating expression.