Patatin is a family of glycoproteins that accounts for up to 40% of the total soluble protein in potato tubers. We isolated and characterized 25 patatin genomic clones. All of these exhibit different restriction patterns, but can be divided into two classes based on the presence (class II) or absence (class I) of a 22-bp sequence within the 5'-untranslated region. We determined the complete nucleotide sequence of the class-I clone PS20 and the 5'-flanking sequence of seven additional clones. The transcribed region of PS20 spans 3197 bp and is divided by six introns. The seven exons encode a transcript which is identical to the cDNA, cloned in pGM203 [Mignery et al., Nucl. Acids Res. 12 (1984) 7987-8000]. The 5'-flanking sequences of both class-I and class-II patatin genes are highly homologous up to bp position -87 and then diverge. This conserved region contains the CAAT and TATA homologies as well as a homology to the core enhancer sequence. Within a class there are additional large regions of homology, but differences exist that allow the patatin genes to be further divided into several discrete subclasses. S1 nuclease protection experiments with both class-I and class-II probes showed that class-I transcripts are the predominant species present in tubers. Class-II transcripts are present in tubers, but are 50-100-fold less abundant. In potato roots, class-II transcripts are the predominant species and few, if any, class-I transcripts are present.