The principal role of lysozyme is to prevent bacterial invasion at body surfaces. We are interested in how lysozyme is regulated at the surface of the respiratory tract, where the serous gland cell is regarded as the primary cellular source of this enzyme. Since the cow genome contains at least 10 lysozyme-like genes, our objective was to determine which of them are expressed in the cow tracheal gland serous cell. By screening tracheal cDNA libraries with a probe constructed from the cDNA encoding stomach lysozyme 2, we obtained 3 lysozyme cDNAs: 5a (1023 base pairs (bp)), 7a (1060 bp), and 14d (1249 bp). cDNA 7a corresponds to a previously reported gene (showing sequence identity to the stomach 2 lysozyme gene), whereas cDNAs 5a and 14d correspond to lysozyme genes not previously reported. Northern blot analysis of cow tracheal RNA showed lysozyme mRNAs of three distinct lengths. Based on hybridization with probes specific for each cDNA, we determined that the longest transcript corresponded to cDNA 5a, the shortest to 7a, and the intermediate-length transcript to 14d. Cultured cow tracheal gland serous cell RNA, reverse transcribed and amplified by the polymerase chain reaction with primers common to all three cDNAs, yielded a product that hybridized to oligonucleotide probes specific for all three cDNAs but most strongly to that for 5a. These results indicate that multiple lysozyme mRNAs are expressed in the cow trachea and that the lysozyme encoded by cDNA 5a is the major form expressed in the tracheal gland serous cell. This serous cell lysozyme is predicted to differ importantly in structure from both 7a and 14d lysozymes, with an arginine:lysine ratio almost 10-fold higher. The sequence differences may underlie functional differences, including variable resistance to proteolysis and variable affinity for large polyanions (e.g. mucins) found in the respiratory tract lumen.