Cell proliferation requires inhibitory and permissive factors to monitor cell-cycle progression and control DNA replication. The small intestine has a high rate of proliferation and a very low incidence of cancer, suggestive of efficient mechanisms for control of the cell cycle and assuring fidelity of DNA replication. We have isolated a cDNA from a rat crypt-cell library which hybridized to a 3.0-kb mRNA specific for crypt cells, the proliferative cell compartment of the intestine. Its amino-acid sequence indicates that it is a new member of a family of replication proteins found in yeast, Cenorhabditis elegans, mouse and humans. Its transcripts were markedly increased in fetal rat intestine and liver, decreased in long-term confluent and serum-starved tissue culture cells (IEC cells, a cell line derived from rat crypt cells), increased with serum repletion as cells resumed proliferation, and appeared to be species specific. Isolation and functional characterization of small intestinal crypt-cell replication factors should help explain this organ's low incidence of cancer.