Human cDNA clones encoding the extracellular calcium-binding, acidic glycoprotein known as SPARC, osteonectin, or BM-40 were isolated from a placental cDNA library. Two polyadenylated transcripts of 2.2 and 3.0 kb were detected in human tissues and cultured cells by Northern blot analysis, and cDNAs for both transcripts were characterized. The 2133-bp sequence of the more abundant (major) transcript contains an open reading frame for 303 amino acids. The deduced polypeptide has extensive amino acid sequence identity with mouse SPARC. The larger and minor 3.0-kb cDNA has an identical coding region but utilizes a downstream polyadenylation signal. Gene localization studies have revealed a single chromosomal site at 5q31-q33 by somatic cell hybrid analysis and in situ chromosomal hybridization. Furthermore, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of human genomic DNA cleaved with different rare-cutting restriction enzymes and hybridized with SPARC cDNA probes revealed single or double fragments of less than 50 to about 150 kb. The evidence is consistent with a single locus for SPARC in humans. The gene was found to be differentially expressed in many human tissues and in an osteogenic sarcoma, but not in other transformed cells.