Prion protein (PrP) forms the fibrils or prion rods isolated from scrapie-infected brain and has been proposed as the major component of the infectious agent of this slowly progressive spongiform encephalopathy. In previous Northern blot analyses PrP-specific mRNAs have been found in both normal and scrapie-infected brains but not in spleen, an organ which harbours large titres of infectivity. In the present study, mouse PrP DNA was used to probe for PrP mRNA in assorted tissues and cells. A reexamination of mouse and hamster spleens revealed that they contained low levels of PrP mRNA (approx. 0.8% of that in brain mRNA). No consistent differences were observed between normal and scrapie-infected tissues. Also positive for PrP mRNA under stringent hybridization conditions were mouse epithelial, neuroblastoma, erythroid, B-lymphocytic and embryo fibroblast tissue culture cell lines, a hamster ovary cell line, a rat glioma cell line, and human T lymphocytic and neuroblastoma cell lines. In contrast, no PrP mRNA was detected in two mouse myeloid cell lines and one T cell lymphoma. These results provide evidence that PrP is a protein common to numerous, but not all, cell types besides those of the brain.