The maize P locus is involved in the synthesis of a red flavonoid pigment in the pericarp, cob and other floral tissues. The tissue-specific pattern of expression of certain P alleles suggests that P may be a complex locus, with more than one functional unit. The P-VV allele, which specifies variegated pericarp and variegated cob, however, shows that insertion and excision of the transposable element Ac affects both pericarp and cob expression as though cob and pericarp pigmentation are controlled by a single gene. Using Ac as a transposon tag, we have isolated 34 kb of genomic DNA from the P-VV and P-RR allele. The cloned DNA contains two 5.8 kb cross-hybridizing regions, in direct orientation relative to each other, separated by 6.6 kb of intervening DNA. A sequence motif of 250 bp is repeated at three locations within the cloned region: once within each of the 5.8 kb repeats, and once outside the 5.8 kb repeats. DNA fragments flanking the Ac element detect five transcripts in RNA from wild type (P-RR) that are absent from mutant (P-VV) tissues. To localize the transcribed sequences, DNA probes spanning the 34 kb of cloned DNA were used in Northern analysis of RNA from mutant and wild-type kernels. The results suggest the presence of a single transcriptional unit located primarily within the DNA between the 5.8 kb repeats. The five RNAs transcribed from this region may be formed by alternative splicing. The size of the P gene derived from the length of the transcribed region seems much smaller than the gene size estimated from Ac-induced P-VV mutations.