A truncated cDNA clone encoding Tetrahymena thermophila histone H2A2 was isolated using synthetic degenerate oligonucleotide probes derived from H2A protein sequences of Tetrahymena pyriformis. The cDNA clone was used as a homologous probe to isolate a truncated genomic clone encoding H2A1. The remaining regions of the genes for H2A1 (HTA1) and H2A2 (HTA2) were then isolated using inverse PCR on circularized genomic DNA fragments. These partial clones were assembled into intact HTA1 and HTA2 clones. Nucleotide sequences of the two genes were highly homologous within the coding region but not in the noncoding regions. Comparison of the deduced amino acid sequences with protein sequences of T. pyriformis H2As showed only two and three differences respectively, in a total of 137 amino acids for H2A1, and 132 amino acids for H2A2, indicating the two genes arose before the divergence of these two species. The HTA2 gene contains a TAA triplet within the coding region, encoding a glutamine residue. In contrast with the T. thermophila HHO and HTA3 genes, no introns were identified within the two genes. The 5'- and 3'-ends of the histone H2A mRNAs; were determined by RNase protection and by PCR mapping using RACE and RLM-RACE methods. Both genes encode polyadenylated mRNAs and are highly expressed in vegetatively growing cells but only weakly expressed in starved cultures. With the inclusion of these two genes, T. thermophila is the first organism whose entire complement of known core and linker histones, including replication-dependent and basal variants, has been cloned and sequenced.