After many unsuccessful attempts to detect cDNA encoding the catalytic subunit of bovine pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase (PDPc) in bovine cDNA libraries, an approach based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was undertaken. Overlapping DNA fragments were generated by PCR from bovine genomic DNA and from cDNA synthesized from total RNA with synthetic oligonucleotide primers on the basis of experimentally determined amino acid sequences. The DNA fragments were subcloned and sequenced. The complete cDNA is 1900 base pairs in length and contains an open reading frame of 1614 nucleotides encoding a putative presequence of 71 amino acid residues and a mature protein of 467 residues with a calculated M(r) of 52,625. Hybridization analysis showed a single mRNA transcript of about 2.0 kilobases. Comparison of the deduced amino acid sequences of the mitochondrial PDPc and the rat cytosolic protein phosphatase 2C indicates that these protein serine/threonine phosphatases evolved from a common ancestor. The mature form of PDPc was coexpressed in Escherichia coli with the chaperonin proteins groEL and groES. The recombinant protein (rPDPc) was purified to near homogeneity. Its activity toward the bovine 32P-labeled pyruvate dehydrogenase complex was Mg(2+)-dependent and Ca(2+)-stimulated and comparable to that of native bovine PDP. An active, truncated form of rPDPc, with M(r) approximately 45,000, was produced in variable amounts during growth of cells and/or during the purification procedure.