A set of partially overlapping cDNA clones covering 9 kb of continuous sequence encoding the high molecular weight microtubule-associated protein (MAP) 1B, was isolated from a rat brain library in lambda gt11. The protein encoded was immunoreactive with monoclonal antibodies raised against calf MAP 1B, rat MAP 1X, and rat MAP 5, as shown by immunoblotting. Using Northern blot analysis, it was shown that the level of MAP 1B mRNA increased dramatically upon nerve growth factor-induced PC12 cell differentiation. The expression of polypeptides encoded by cDNA constructs, in conjunction with microtubule binding assays, revealed two separate microtubule binding domains, corresponding to sequences at the 5' and 3' end of the mRNA. As shown by DNA sequencing, the binding domain encoded by 5' terminal sequences consisted of the basic repeat motif KKEE(I/V), previously identified in mouse MAP 1B (Noble, M., S. A. Lewis, N. J. Cowan, J. Cell Biol. 109, 3367-3376 (1989)). The second binding domain, too, was found to be basic, but without any apparent repeat structure. It is concluded that single proteolytically unprocessed MAP 1B molecules would have the potential to function as microtubule cross-linkers.