We have recently purified to near homogeneity a novel type of regulatory protein for the rho proteins, ras p21-like small GTP-binding proteins, from bovine brain cytosol. This regulatory protein, named GDP dissociation inhibitor for the rho proteins (rho GDI), regulates the GDP/GTP exchange reaction of the rho proteins by inhibiting the dissociation of GDP from them, and the subsequent binding of GTP to them. In the present studies, we have isolated the cDNA of rho GDI from a bovine brain cDNA library using oligonucleotide probes designed from the partial amino acid sequences of the purified rho GDI and determined its complete nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequences. The cDNA contains an open reading frame encoding a protein of 204 amino acids with a calculated Mr value of 23,421. This Mr value is similar to those of the purified rho GDI estimated by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and sucrose density gradient ultra-centrifugation, both of which are about 27,000. The rho GDI cDNA is expressed in Escherichia coli and COS7 cells and the encoded protein exhibits rho GDI activity. The 1.9-kilobase rho GDI mRNA corresponding to the isolated cDNA is detected in various rat tissues by Northern blot analysis. Hydropathy analysis indicates that rho GDI is overall hydrophilic except for one hydrophobic region. Computer homology search has revealed that rho GDI is a novel protein that does not share a high amino acid sequence homology with any known protein.