We have determined the primary structure of a novel gamma subunit (gamma 12, previously designated gamma S1) of G protein purified from bovine spleen. The mature gamma 12 protein composed of 68 amino acids had acetylated serine at the N terminus and geranylgeranylated/carboxylmethylated cysteine at the C terminus. This was consistent with the C-terminal prenylation signal in the amino acid sequence, which was predicted from gamma 12 cDNA isolated from a bovine spleen cDNA library. Western blots with the specific antibody against gamma 12 showed that gamma 12 is present in all tissues examined. Among various gamma subunits (gamma 1, gamma 2, gamma 3, gamma 7, and gamma 12), gamma 12 has a unique property to be phosphorylated by protein kinase C. The phosphorylated amino acid residue was Ser1 (or Ser2). The phosphorylated beta gamma 12 associated with Go alpha more tightly than the unphosphorylated form. Exposure of Swiss 3T3 and aortic smooth muscle cells to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and NaF induced phosphorylation of gamma 12. Stimulation of aortic smooth muscle cells with natural vasoactive agents such as angiotensin II and vasopressin also induced phosphorylation of gamma 12. The extent of phosphorylation of beta gamma 12 in vitro was suppressed by a complex formation with Go alpha, which was relieved by the addition of guanosine 5'-O-(3-thiotriphosphate) or aluminum fluoride. These results strongly suggest that gamma 12 is phosphorylated by protein kinase C during activation of receptor(s) and G protein(s) in living cells.