We report the complete nucleotide sequence of the 3627 bp long 5'-external transcribed spacer (ETS) of a human ribosomal RNA gene. This sequence exhibits only very limited homologies with its mouse counterpart, the only other mammalian specimen analyzed so far. It has very peculiar compositional characteristics, with a highly biased base content (very rich in G + C, very poor in A) and also some very strong dinucleotide preferences. Interestingly, these specific features are shared by the mouse sequence, despite the extensive sequence divergence, and also apply to the other transcribed spacers of mammals indicating that a common and strong structural constraint is exerted on all these regions of the ribosomal gene. An outstanding secondary structure can be formed within the human ETS RNA, which could have a significant role in preribosome assembly.