We have isolated a 1.1-kilobase cDNA clone that encodes human fibrillarin by screening a hepatoma library in parallel with DNA probes derived from the fibrillarin genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (NOP1) and Xenopus laevis. RNA blot analysis indicates that the corresponding mRNA is approximately 1300 nucleotides in length. Human fibrillarin expressed in vitro migrates on SDS gels as a 36-kDa protein that is specifically immunoprecipitated by antisera from humans with scleroderma autoimmune disease. Human fibrillarin contains an amino-terminal repetitive domain approximately 75-80 amino acids in length that is rich in glycine and arginine residues and is similar to amino-terminal domains in the yeast and Xenopus fibrillarins. The occurrence of a putative RNA-binding domain and an RNP consensus sequence within the protein is consistent with the association of fibrillarin with small nucleolar RNAs. Protein sequence alignments show that 67% of amino acids from human fibrillarin are identical to those in yeast fibrillarin and that 81% are identical to those in Xenopus fibrillarin. This identity suggests the evolutionary conservation of an important function early in the pathway for ribosome biosynthesis.