The complete nucleotide sequences of three cloned cDNAs corresponding to human liver apolipoprotein E (apo-E) mRNA were determined. Analysis of the longest cDNA showed that it contained 1157 nucleotides of mRNA sequence with a 5'-terminal nontranslated region of 61 nucleotides, a signal peptide region corresponding to 18 amino acids, a mature protein region corresponding to 299 amino acids, and a 3'-terminal nontranslated region of 142 nucleotides. The inferred amino acid sequences from two cDNAs were identical and corresponded to the amino acid sequence for plasma apo-E3 that has been reported previously ( Rall , S. C., Jr., Weisgraber , K. H., and Mahley , R. W. (1982) J. Biol. Chem. 257, 4171-4178). The third cDNA differed from the other two cDNAs in five nucleotide positions. Three of these differences occurred in the third nucleotide position of amino acid codons, resulting in no change in the corresponding amino acids at residues Val-85, Ser-223, and Gln-248. The other two altered nucleotides occurred in the first nucleotide position of codons, leading to changes in the amino acids encoded. In the variant sequence, a threonine replaced the normal alanine at residue 99 and a proline replaced the normal alanine at residue 152. We have concluded that the human liver donor was heterozygous for the epsilon 3 genotype. The variant cDNA corresponds to a new, previously undescribed variant form of apo-E in which the amino acid substitutions of the protein are electrophoretically silent; it would probably be undetectable by standard apo-E phenotyping methods. The amino acid substitution at position 152 occurs in a region of apo-E that appears to be important for receptor binding, and it may have clinical significance.