Neuromedin U (NmU), a peptide originally isolated from porcine spinal cord, is known for its ability to stimulate uterine smooth muscle contraction and to cause selective vasoconstriction. It was subsequently isolated from a number of species. Among the species studied, the five amino acids at the C-terminus of the peptide are totally conserved, suggesting that this region is of major importance. We have cloned and sequenced the cDNA encoding the rat NmU precursor protein using the anchor polymerase chain reaction technique. Sequence analysis revealed that NmU is synthesized as a 174-amino acid precursor. Like the precursors of most other small regulatory peptides, it has a hydrophobic signal peptide and a number of paired dibasic amino acids, which may serve as signals for enzymatic cleavage, to release NmU and a series of other peptides. These predicted flanking peptides of NmU show no significant homology with entries in the protein databases searched, and the cDNA likewise shows no homology with entries in the GenBank database. Northern blot analysis using total RNA extracted from different rat tissues shows high levels of NmU mRNA in the ileum, thyroid, and anterior pituitary. Southern blot analysis of rat genomic DNA demonstrates that NmU is a single copy gene.