Monoclonal antibody MAb K1 recognizes a 40-kDa glycoprotein present on the surface of mesothelial cells, mesotheliomas, and ovarian cancers. We have used MAb K1 to isolate a 2138-bp cDNA that encodes this antigen. The cDNA has an 1884-bp open reading frame encoding a 69-kDa protein. When the cDNA was transfected into COS and NIH 3T3 cells, the antigen was found on the cell surface and could be released by treatment with phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C. The 69-kDa precursor is processed to the 40-kDa form. The protein has been named mesothelin because it is made by mesothelial cells. Mesothelin may play a role in cellular adhesion.