Two cDNA clones coding for Zn-alpha 2-glycoprotein (Zn-alpha 2-gp) have been isolated from a human breast library and their nucleotide sequences determined. The deduced amino acid sequence contains the coding information for a hydrophobic signal peptide and the 278 residues of the mature protein. Comparison of this sequence with that from the protein purified from plasma reveals four differences: two amino acid changes (Gln-67 and Glu-222) and insertion of two residues (Ile-75 and Phe-76). Northern-blot analysis showed that the Zn-alpha 2-gp gene is expressed in liver and normal breast, but not in placenta, ovary and thyroid. A comparative analysis in mammary tissues from women with different diseases revealed enhanced expression of Zn-alpha 2-gp gene in benign breast lesions and a variable expression level in breast cancers.