The poly(A)-binding protein (PABP) binds to the poly(A) tail present at the 3' ends of most eukaryotic mRNAs. PABP is thought to play a role in both translation and mRNA stability. Here we describe the molecular cloning and characterization of an inducible PABP, iPABP, from a cDNA library prepared from activated T cells. iPABP shows 79% sequence identity to PABP at the amino acid level. The RNA binding domains of iPABP and PABP are nearly identical, while their C termini are more divergent. Like PABP, iPABP is primarily localized to the cytoplasm. iPABP is expressed at low levels in resting normal human T cells; following T-cell activation, however, iPABP mRNA levels are rapidly up-regulated. In contrast, PABP is constitutively expressed in both resting and activated T cells. iPABP mRNA was also expressed at much higher levels than PABP mRNA in heart and skeletal muscle tissue. These data suggest that the regulation of cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding activity is more complex than previously believed. In most tissues, poly(A)-binding activity is likely to be the result of the combined effects of constitutively expressed PABP and iPABP, whose expression is subject to more complex regulation.