A human corneal fibroblast cDNA library was screened with a bovine lumican cDNA probe to obtain three clones. Sequencing of the longest clone (1.75 kb) yielded an open reading frame of 1014 bp coding for a 338-amino-acid core protein. Amino acid sequencing of a tryptic peptide resulted in a 9-amino-acid match with the derived primary structure, confirming the identity of these clones. Human lumican displays all of the features of small interstitial proteoglycans: N- and C-terminal domains with highly conserved cysteines and a central domain containing nine repeats of slight variations of the leucine motif LXXLXLXXNXL. Like bovine lumican, the human core protein contains four possible N-glycosylation sites in the central domains, all or some of which are substituted with keratan sulfate side chains. At the amino acid level, it is 90% identical with bovine and 72% identical with the chicken core protein. The gene (LUM) was localized to human chromosome 12 by hybridizing a cDNA probe to a Southern blot containing a human/hamster monochromosomal mapping panel DNA. Further sublocalization to 12q21.3-q22 was performed by the fluorescence in situ hybridization technique using a lumican P1 genomic clone. By immunohistochemical staining, we show lumican's presence, not only in the corneal stroma as shown previously, but also in the dermal area of the skin, indicating a wider distribution of this proteoglycan.