A search for uncharacterized genes of the S region of the murine H-2 major histocompatibility complex was undertaken; a series of cosmid clones previously aligned by overlap hybridizations were used as radiolabeled probes. Sequences hybridizing with liver poly(A)+ RNA were found within a cosmid covering a region 3' to the C4-Slp gene (the gene encoding the hemolytically inactive isoform of the fourth component of serum complement). Radiolabeled, short cDNA complementary to liver poly(A)+ RNA was used to establish the transcriptional polarity of the newly detected gene and to define fragments containing its 3' end. DNA sequence analyses and comparisons with porcine peptides established that the gene encodes the enzyme steroid 21-hydroxylase (EC 220.127.116.11), a cytochrome P-450 often referred to as P-450(C21), whose major site of expression is the adrenal gland. Two copies of the P-450(C21) gene, very similar yet distinguishable by restriction endonuclease analysis, were found individually associated with C4 and C4-Slp, genes that encode isoforms of mouse fourth component of complement. One of the P-450(C21) genes is coamplified with C4-Slp in H-2w7, a haplotype carrying a rare elongation of the S region. Comparisons with other members of the P-450 gene family show that the P-450(C21) genes encode peptides of extraordinary evolutionary conservation. The detection of a liver transcript of P-450(C21) raises the issue of the specific metabolic role of this enzyme in this organ and may have implications for the interpretation of human congenital adrenal hyperplasia.