Pulmonate freshwater snails contain two different ferritin types, soma ferritin and yolk ferritin. A cDNA library was constructed from midgut gland poly(A)-rich RNA of the snail Lymnaea stagnalis L. and recombinant clones encoding both ferritin types were obtained by immunoscreening. The longest cDNA inserts had a length of 859 bp (soma ferritin) and 1548 bp (yolk ferritin) and the specificity of these inserts was confirmed by immunoprecipitation of both ferritin types translated in vitro from hybrid-selected mRNAs. The 5' untranslated region (UTR) of the soma ferritin mRNA contains a 28-bp element which shows 64% sequence identity with the iron-responsive element (IRE) of vertebrate ferritin mRNAs. The soma ferritin mRNA is strongly translated in the wheat germ system but poorly translated in rabbit reticulocyte lysate. The yolk ferritin mRNA, which contains no IRE, is equally well translated in both in vitro translation systems. The deduced amino acid sequence of the soma ferritin subunit (174 amino acid residues, M(r) 20140) shows 50-70% sequence identity with subunits of vertebrate ferritins. After removal of an 18-amino-acid-residue signal sequence the deduced protein sequence of yolk ferritin contains 221 amino acids (M(r) 25438). Sequence identity of this chain with other eukaryotic ferritin chains is only 31-42%. Both snail ferritin sequences are more similar to the H-subunit type of vertebrate ferritins than to the L-type and both have the H-specific amino acid residues of the ferroxidase centre. The yolk ferritin sequence has a 42-amino-acid-residue insertion predicted to reside in the L loop of the subunit.