We have isolated and characterized four overlapping clones from two cosmid human genomic libraries, which span about 90 kilobase pairs (kbp) and contain the entire human mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene. Restriction maps of the genomic clones were elucidated utilizing cDNA probes and specific oligonucleotide probes. The organization of exons and introns was established by DNA sequencing of each exon and splicing junctions. The ALDH2 gene is about 44 kbp in length and contains at least 13 exons which encode 517 amino acid residues. Except for the signal NH2-terminal peptide, which is absent in the mature enzyme, the amino acid sequence deduced from the exons coincided with the reported primary structure of human liver ALDH2 (J. Hempel, R. Kaiser, and H. Jörnvall, 1985, Eur. J. Biochem. 153: 13-28). Several introns contain Alu repetitive sequences. A TATA-like sequence (TTATAAAA) and a CAAT-like sequence (GTCATCAT) are located 473 and 515 bp, respectively, upstream from the translation initiation codon. Primer extension and S1 nuclease mapping were performed to characterize the 5'-region of the gene.