We have previously characterized an abundant male-specific mRNA from the submaxillary gland (SMG) of rats, encoding the SMR1 (androgen-regulated) protein, which has the structure of a prohormone and is processed by maturation enzymes to release a small peptide in the blood and saliva. We have now characterized three SMR1-related cDNAs in the SMG of Balb/c mice. These cDNAs encode three novel proteins, designated MSG1, MSG2 and MSG3. They are 639, 662 and 471 nucleotides (nt) long, respectively, and the corresponding mRNAs appear to be expressed only in the SMG. The putative polypeptides they encode carry an N-terminal secretory peptide sequence and are, therefore, presumably secreted into saliva. Although closely related, the three mRNAs show striking differences: a particularly different expression pattern and an extremely high degree of variability observed in the central part of the molecules. The MSG1 and MSG3 cDNAs are identical, except for a 173-bp insert found only in MSG1. This insert contains three Pro-rich repeats (GPGIGRPPPPPP), reminiscent of the most abundant multigenic family of the SMG, the Pro-rich proteins (PRP). Although MSG1 shares several common features with PRP, it is structurally related to SMR1. The unusually high ratio of replacement/silent nt changes provides a basis to address complex aspects concerning the molecular events leading to the emergence of new proteins in the SMG.