Nucleotide sequencing of a rat carboxypeptidase B (CPB) cDNA and direct sequencing of the CPB mRNA via primer extension on pancreatic polyadenylated RNA has yielded the complete amino acid sequence of rat CPB. The rat enzyme is synthesized as a precursor species containing a large amino-terminal fragment (108 amino acids) that contributes a putative signal sequence and an activation peptide. The mature form of rat CPB is homologous to bovine CPB (77% identity); the amino acids in bovine CPB which have been previously implicated in catalysis or ligand binding are invariant in the rat orthologue. The rat CPB cDNA was used as a probe for the isolation of the rat CPB gene. Detailed characterization of three overlapping rat genomic clones demonstrated that the coding region for the rat CPB precursor is sequestered in 11 exons which are dispersed throughout 34 kilobase pairs of genomic DNA. The nucleotide sequence of a large part of the gene has been determined including that of the exons, the exon/intron boundaries, and the 5' flanking region. We also report the partial nucleotide sequence of the rat CPA1 gene. Comparative analysis of the structural organization of the rat CPB, rat CPA1, and rat CPA2 genes (Gardell, S. J., Craik, C. S., Clauser, E., Goldsmith, E. J., Stewart, C.-B., Graf, M., and Rutter, W. J. (1988) J. Biol. Chem. 263, 17828-17836) reveals that, with one exception, the number, position, and sequence composition of the exons in these three carboxypeptidase genes are conserved in spite of considerable divergence with respect to the lengths of their corresponding intervening sequences. Conserved sequences in the 5' flanking regions of the rat CPA1, CPA2, CPB, and other pancreas-specific genes have been identified.