On in vitro transcription of total genomic DNA of the tortoise (Geoclemys reevessi), a discrete-sized RNA of 6.5S was obtained that represented a highly repetitive and transcribable sequence in the tortoise genome. Three sequences of the 6.5S RNA gene were sequenced, and a consensus sequence was deduced from these three sequences and one reported previously [Endoh, H & Okada, N. (1986) Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 83, 251-255]. The 5' part of the gene showed close similaries to lysine (rabbit) and threonine (mouse) tRNAs (overall similarity 68-70%), so this tortoise sequence may have evolved from one of these tRNAs. The consensus sequence retained the expected CCA triplet at the 3' end of tRNA, but not at the 3' end of tDNA, supporting the idea that the tRNA-related region of the gene was generated via an RNA intermediate. The 5' and 3' flanking sequences of the four genes were found to be completely different from each other. Fingerprint analysis and S1 nuclease mapping analysis also showed that sequence boundaries of tortoise repetitive units exactly corresponded to RNA species. These results, together with data obtained by Southern blot hybridization, indicated that the 6.5S RNA genes are dispersed in the tortoise genome. Therefore, generation of the tRNA-related region of the gene and amplification of the whole unit of the gene are both RNA-mediated events. The existence of this tortoise sequence suggests that short interspersed sequences are more common in eukaryotic genomes than had previously been thought.