Keratin 19 (K19) is synthesized mainly in embryonic and adult simple epithelia, but has also been found in stratified epithelia as well. K19 is the smallest known keratin and is remarkable in that, contrary to all other keratins, it does not have a designated partner for the formation of filaments, implying that regulation of its expression is different from other keratin-encoding genes. As a first step in elucidating the mechanisms by which the K19 gene is regulated in relatively undifferentiated embryonic and in terminally differentiated adult tissues, a series of overlapping clones containing the complete mouse K19 gene was isolated from a mouse genomic library and characterized. The nucleotide (nt) sequence extends over 5119 nt and includes six exons. A region of 303 nt upstream from the transcription start point (tsp) was also sequenced. Comparison with the human and bovine K19 genes revealed the existence of homologies in both the coding and noncoding regions. The putative promoter region of the mouse K19 gene is highly homologous to the corresponding sequences of the human and bovine K19 genes. It contains an ATA box, a CAAT box and two potential Sp1-binding sites. Significant homologies were also found between the sequences of the introns of the mouse, human and bovine genes: this was particularly evident in introns 2, 3, 4 and 5. Intron 1, which showed the greatest degree of divergence, was found to contain many repetitive elements. Finally, it is shown that the mouse K19 gene cosegregates with the type-I keratin-encoding gene locus (Krt-1) on chromosome 11.