The full length cDNA sequence for the lens-specific intermediate filament protein, CP49, from chicken is presented. The sequence contains features typical of the other intermediate filament proteins, including two major alpha-helical regions, helix I and II and appropriate linker regions. CP49 lacks a C-terminal non-alpha-helical domain and is only the second intermediate filament protein to be described missing this feature. Comparison to the bovine CP49 shows significant homology in all domains except the N-terminal non-alpha-helical domain. Besides bovine CP49, the other protein most homologous to chicken CP49 in the database was keratin 18, a type I keratin. A variant of CP49 is also described, called CP49ins. Of the 61 positive clones identified in the library, two encoded CP49ins, one of these being a full-length clone. The sequence differed to CP49 by the insertion of 49 amino acids in helix IB. This is the first chordate cytoplasmic intermediate filament protein sequence to be identified with an archetypal lamin-like insertion in this helical subdomain and represents a key discovery in tracing the evolutionary pathway of intermediate filament protein family.