Humans, other primates, and guinea pigs are missing an enzyme L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase which catalyzes the last step of L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis. We have recently isolated a cDNA encoding this enzyme of the rat (T. Koshizaka, M. Nishikimi, T. Ozawa, and K. Yagi (1988) J. Biol. Chem. 263, 1619-1621). Northern blot hybridization using this cDNA as a probe demonstrated that guinea pigs lack mRNA for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase. Nevertheless, existence of a DNA sequence related to this enzyme in the genome of this animal was shown by Southern blot hybridization. The human genome was also found to contain a sequence that is hybridizable with the cDNA probe; however, the degree of hybridization was less than those of hybridization with the L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase genes of animals possessing the enzyme, suggesting that the human L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase gene has diverged more rapidly than the genes of L-ascorbic acid-synthesizing species. This hypothesis was confirmed by comparison of a partial nucleotide sequence of the human gene with that of the rat one. The L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase-related sequences in the guinea pig and human genomes may represent the remnants of the gene of the enzyme that were once active but became nonfunctional during the course of evolution.