We have isolated mouse glucocorticoid receptor (GR) cDNAs which, when expressed in transfected mammalian cells, produce a fully functional GR protein. Sequence analysis reveals an open reading frame of 2349 bp which could encode a protein of approximately 86,000 daltons. We have also isolated two receptor cDNAs from mouse S49 nuclear transfer-deficient (nt-) cells which encode mutant forms of the receptor protein. One cDNA encodes a protein that is unable to bind hormone and represents the endogenous hormone binding deficient receptor recently discovered in S49 cells. The lesion in this receptor is due to a single amino acid substitution (Glu-546 to Gly). The second cDNA from nt- cells produces a receptor protein that is able to bind hormone but has reduced nuclear binding. This cDNA, therefore, encodes for the S49 nt- receptor which has been shown to have reduced affinity for DNA. The lesion maps to a single amino acid substitution (Arg-484 to His) located in a highly Cys, Lys, Arg-rich region of the protein previously implicated in DNA binding. Our studies provide unambiguous identification of receptor domains and specific amino acids critical for the hormone and DNA binding properties of this transcriptional regulatory protein. Contained within the first 106 amino acids of the mouse GR is a stretch of nine glutamines with two prolines which are related to the family of transcribed repetitive elements, opa, found in Drosophila melanogaster. A truncated receptor lacking these 106 amino acids is functionally indistinguishable from the wild-type receptor.