A cDNA for rat thymosin-beta 4 was used to investigate the expression of this gene in different tissues, thymic cells, and lymphocytes. Hybridization analysis of total RNA from 13 rat tissues demonstrated the presence of an 800 nucleotides-long mRNA in all the tissues surveyed, with the highest levels in spleen, thymus, and lung. Examination of thymic cells showed that the thymosin-beta 4 gene is predominantly expressed in thymocytes. The thymosin-beta 4 mRNA was also studied in Ig+ and Ig- lymphocytes, being fourfold more abundant in Ig- than Ig+ splenic lymphocytes, whereas similar levels were found in both types of blood cells. The analysis of RNA from T cells at different maturation stages evidenced slight differences in their thymosin-beta 4 mRNA content, indicating that thymosin-beta 4 gene expression is not clearly related to the differentiation process of T cells. All these results do not support the roles for thymosin-beta 4 in cellular immunity and differentiation of lymphoid cells, suggesting a more general function for this peptide. Preliminary characterization of the human beta 4 gene by restriction analysis disclosed a complicated pattern consistent with multiple genes and/or introns. The analysis of genomic DNA from different species ranging from humans to Escherichia coli showed that this gene is only highly conserved in mammals.