cDNA clones for chicken adipose lipoprotein lipase were isolated from an expression library in lambda gt11 by antibody screening and characterized by hybridization selection and nucleotide sequencing. Based on the cDNA sequence and on N-terminal sequence analysis of the purified enzyme, chicken adipose lipoprotein lipase is a mature protein of 465 amino acids with a signal peptide of 19 or 25 amino acids, depending on which of two methionine residues is used for translation initiation. The predicted amino-acid sequence was found to be 73-77% identical to the four known mammalian adipose lipoprotein lipase sequences, with conservation of position of cysteine residues and putative functional domains, and number of potential N-glycosylation sites. Chicken lipoprotein lipase differs from mammalian lipoprotein lipases with respect to the position of one N-glycosylation site and the presence of an additional 15-17 C-terminal amino acids. 32P-labeled cDNA clones hybridized to mRNA species of 3.7 and 4.0 kb in Northern blots of heart and adipose, but not of liver RNA. In chickens that were fasted for 48 h and then refed, lipoprotein lipase mRNA levels in adipose increased to a maximal level of 350% that of controls at 10 h, whereas heart lipoprotein lipase mRNA levels fell to 40% of controls at 14 h. Concomitantly, no changes in total RNA were observed. Thus, avian lipoprotein lipase is subject to reciprocal pretranslational regulation in adipose and heart.