In order to better understand the expression of the Protein C/Protein S anticoagulant system, we have isolated and characterized cDNAs coding for rat Protein C and Protein S. These cDNAs were used in Northern analysis to determine tissue-specificity and developmental expression patterns for mRNAs coding for Proteins C and S. In rats, Protein C mRNA is expressed almost exclusively in liver with a small amount of expression in kidney, diaphragm, stomach, intestine, uterus and placenta. Protein C mRNA was not expressed in brain, heart, lung, spleen, small intestine, large intestine, ovary, or urinary bladder. In liver, Protein C mRNA is expressed at very low levels at prenatal day 18 and these levels increased to maximal levels by postnatal day 13. The size of the mRNA coding for rat Protein C is approximately 1.9 kb. Rat Protein S mRNA was expressed in all tissues examined: brain, heart, lung, diaphragm, liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, kidney, adrenal ovary, uterus, placenta, and urinary bladder. Interestingly, there were 4 bands hybridizing with the rat protein S cDNA that were evident in many of the tissues examined, corresponding to mRNA sizes of approximately 3.5, 2.6, 1.8, and 0.3 kb. There was a difference in tissue-specificity of each mRNA. The 1.8 kb band is generally the most prominent autoradiographic band in any tissue. From these results, it is evident that the expression of Protein C mRNA is similar to that of other vitamin K-dependent proteins. The expression of Protein S mRNA, however, is surprisingly complex and may include alternative splicing of mRNA to generate the various sizes evident on Northern analysis.