The primary structure of human xanthine dehydrogenase (hXDH) was determined by cloning and sequence analysis of the cDNAs encoding the enzyme. The nucleotide (nt) sequence has an open reading frame of 3999 nt encoding a protein of 1333 amino acids (aa) with a calculated M(r) of 146,604. The deduced aa sequence of hXDH is homologous to the previously reported rat XDH (rXDH) and Drosophila melanogaster XDH sequences with identities of 90.2 and 52.0%, respectively. The aa residues involved in both the reversible and the irreversible conversion from the dehydrogenase type to the oxidase type of rXDH are completely conserved between the rat and the human enzymes. This implies that the molecular mechanisms of the conversion of hXDH from dehydrogenase to oxidase are common to those of the well-characterized rXDH. Five sequence variations were detected in the isolated cDNA clones. Spot blot hybridization using flow-sorted human chromosome revealed that the hXDH-encoding gene (hXDH) was located on chromosome 2.