The main nitrogen source for most higher plants is soil nitrate. Prior to its incorporation into amino acids, plants reduce nitrate to ammonia in two enzymatic steps. Nitrate is reduced by nitrate reductase to nitrite, which is further reduced to ammonia by nitrite reductase. In this paper, the complete primary sequence of the precursor protein for spinach nitrite reductase has been deduced from cloned cDNAs. The cDNA clones were isolated from a nitrate-induced cDNA library in two ways: through the use of oligonucleotide probes based on partial amino acid sequences of nitrite reductase and through the use of antibodies raised against purified nitrite reductase. The precursor protein for nitrite reductase is 594 amino acids long and has a 32 amino acid extension at the N-terminal end of the mature protein. These 32 amino acids most likely serve as a transit peptide involved in directing this nuclear-encoded protein into the chloroplast. The cDNA hybridizes to a 2.3 kb RNA whose steady-state level is markedly increased upon induction with nitrate.