A variety of stimuli have been identified which initiate transcription-dependent programmed cell death (apoptosis) in specific target cells. Since the withdrawal of androgens induces regression and apoptosis in rat ventral prostate (RVP) epithelial cells, and it is known that the androgen receptor is a transcriptional regulator, we used subtraction cDNA cloning to isolate differentially expressed transcripts from the RVP of androgen ablated rats. In addition to sulfated glycoprotein-2 and glutathione S-transferase (GST), which had been previously described, several other transcripts were found to be elevated 3- to 8-fold in the regressing RVP. DNA sequencing revealed that two of these cDNA clones encode matrix carboxyglutamic acid and gamma-actin, respectively. A third cDNA contained novel sequence information and was named RVP.1. The RVP.1 transcript is expressed at very low levels in the RVP and epididymis of normal adult rats (less than 0.01% of the total mRNA) and is undetectable in other tissues, such as kidney, liver, and muscle. RVP.1 encodes a putative 280-amino acid protein, which shares no significant homology with previously described protein functional domains. We examined the expression of these transcripts in serum-starved NIH 3T3 cells to determine whether any of them are elevated in cells that are growth arrested. It was found that only GST mRNA levels are increased under these conditions. These data may suggest that induction of some genes, such as RVP.1, could be associated with apoptosis, whereas other transcripts, such as GST, may be up-regulated in response to altered rates of cellular metabolism.