Human phenylalanine hydroxylase is a liver-specific enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine. Absence of enzymatic activity results in phenylketonuria, a genetic disorder that causes development of severe mental retardation in untreated children. In this paper we report the cloning and structure of the normal human phenylalanine hydroxylase gene, which was isolated in four overlapping cosmid clones that span more than 125 kilobases (kb) of the genetic locus. The peptide coding region of the gene is about 90 kb in length and contains 13 exons, with intron sizes ranging from 1 to 23 kb. Exons at the 3' half of the gene are compact, whereas those at the 5' half are separated by large introns. The human phenylalanine hydroxylase gene codes for a mature messenger RNA of approximately 2.4 kb, and its noncoding to coding DNA ratio is one of the highest among eukaryotic genes characterized to date. The map positions of nine polymorphic restriction sites identified within the locus were established by restriction enzyme mapping of the cloned gene fragments. Two clusters of polymorphic sites were demonstrated: (1) BglII, PvuII(a), and PvuII(b) at the 5' end of the gene and (2) EcoRI, XmnI, MspI(a), MspI(b), EcoRV, and HindIII at the 3' end. The polymorphic site distribution within this gene is a useful tool for prenatal diagnosis and carrier detection of the genetic disorder, while knowledge of normal gene structure is a prerequisite for future characterization of mutant alleles.