In mammals, equal dosage of gene products encoded by the X chromosome in male and female cells is achieved by X inactivation. Although X-chromosome inactivation represents the most extensive example known of long range cis gene regulation, the mechanism by which thousands of genes on only one of a pair of identical chromosomes are turned off is poorly understood. We have recently identified a human gene (XIST) exclusively expressed from the inactive X chromosome. Here we report the isolation and characterization of its murine homologue (Xist) which localizes to the mouse X inactivation centre region and is the first murine gene found to be expressed from the inactive X chromosome. Nucleotide sequence analysis indicates that Xist may be associated with a protein product. The similar map positions and expression patterns for Xist in mouse and man suggest that this gene may have a role in X inactivation.