Two overlapping cosmids have been isolated containing the entire murine gene for SPARC (osteonectin), a Ca2+-binding, phosphorylated glycoprotein associated with extracellular matrix synthesis and remodeling. The gene contains 10 exons and covers 26.5 kilobase pairs of DNA. Exon analysis shows that the two N-terminal glutamic acid-rich sequences which are predicted to undergo conformational change upon binding of calcium, as well as the C-terminal EF-hand Ca2+-binding domain are each encoded by a single exon. Comparative analysis of the exon sequence does not support the idea that the SPARC gene has evolved by shuffling of exons from other Ca2+-binding proteins. The 5' flanking region of the SPARC gene, which promotes transcription when placed in front of the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyltransferase gene, contains neither "TATA" nor "CAAT" box sequences. However, unlike most other genes lacking these motifs, mapping of the 5' end of the SPARC gene by RNase protection and primer extension analysis reveals only a single major and one minor transcription start site. The upstream region to -120 includes six repeats of the sequence GGAGG, two repeats of the sequence 5' GGAGG A/C GGAGGG 3', and a potential transcription factor AP-2 binding site.