To identify key molecules that regulate germ cell proliferation and differentiation, we have attempted to isolate protein kinase genes preferentially expressed in germ line cells. One such cDNA cloned from murine embryonic germ(EG) cells encodes a nonreceptor type serine/threonine kinase and is predominantly expressed in the testis, ovary, and spleen of adult mouse. The nucleotide sequence of the entire coding regions shows that this clone, designated Plk1(polo like kinase 1), is identical with STPK13 previously cloned from murine erythro-leukemia cells. The protein encoded by Plk1 is closely related to the product of Drosophila polo that plays a role in mitosis and meiosis. To define the role of Plk1 in germ cell development, we have examined its expression in murine gonads by in situ hybridization. Here we show that the Plk1 gene is specifically expressed in spermatocytes of diplotene and diakinesis stage, in secondary spermatocytes, and in round spermatids in testes. It is also expressed in growing oocytes and ovulated eggs. The pattern of expression of the Plk1 gene suggests that the gene product is involved in completion of meiotic division, and like the Drosophila polo protein, is a maternal factor active in embryos at the early cleavage stage.