Analysis of cDNA clones that cross-hybridized with the fork head domain of the rat HNF-3 gene family revealed 10 cDNAs from human fetal brain and human testis cDNA libraries containing this highly conserved DNA-binding domain. Three of these cDNAs (HFK1, HFK2, and HFK3) were further analyzed. The cDNA HFK1 has a length of 2557 nucleotides and shows strong homology at the nucleotide level (91.2%) to brain factor 1 (BF-1) from rat. The HFK1 cDNA codes for a putative 476 amino acid protein. The homology to BF-1 from rat in the coding region at the amino acid level is 87.5%. The fork head homologous region includes 111 amino acids starting at amino acid 160 and has a 97.5% homology to BF-1. Southern hybridization revealed that HFK1 is highly conserved among mammalian species and possibly birds. Northern analysis with total RNA from human tissues and poly(A)-rich RNA from mouse revealed a 3.2-kb transcript that is present in human and mouse fetal brain and in adult mouse brain. In situ hybridization with sections of mouse embryo and human fetal brain reveals that HFK1 expression is restricted to the neuronal cells in the telencephalon, with strong expression being observed in the developing dentate gyrus and hippocampus. HFK1 was chromosomally localized by in situ hybridization to 14q12. The cDNA clones HFK2 and HFK3 were analyzed by restriction analysis and sequencing. HFK2 and HFK3 were found to be closely related but different from HFK1. Therefore, it would appear that HFK1, HFK2, HFK3, and BF-1 form a new fork head related subfamily.