We identified and cloned cDNAs for two novel CD30 mRNAs of 2.3 kb that are induced by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) in the human myeloid leukemia cell line HL-60. These transcripts were transcribed from the intronic region just upstream of the exon coding for the transmembrane domain of the CD30 protein. The shorter cDNA had a deletion of 54 nucleotides corresponding to the 3' region of the transmembrane domain of the CD30 and which was probably caused by alternative splicing. Translation of these transcripts appeared to start from the internal methionine codon at nucleotide position 289 that corresponds to that of 1612 in the CD30 cDNA, and encode a protein of 132 amino acid residues which corresponds exactly to the C-terminal cytoplasmic domain of CD30 protein. The calculated molecular mass of this variant CD30 (CD30v) protein was 14,087. Thus, the predicted CD30v protein retains most of the cytoplasmic region, but lacks the extracellular and transmembrane domains. Northern blots detected the expression of CD30v transcripts only in the lung and the TPA-stimulated HL-60 cell line. Translation of this mRNA in vitro produced a protein of 25 kD. Immunoblotting analysis with HCD30C1, a rabbit polyclonal antibody raised against the cytoplasmic domain of CD30 protein, detected proteins with an apparent Mr 25 kD expressed in TPA-stimulated HL-60 and COS-7 cells that were transfected with both types of CD30v cDNAs. Constitutive phosphorylation of the CD30v protein was demonstrated by in vitro labeling with [32P]. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated CD30v protein was in alveolar macrophages. Cotransfection experiments using a kappa B-site-dependent reporter construct showed that CD30v can transactivate gene expression through activation of NF kappa B, as was noted on the authentic CD30 protein. Overexpression of the CD30v induced differentiation of HL-60 cells as evidenced by an increased NBT reduction activity. These observations provided new insights into the molecular heterogeneity and biological function of CD30 in myeloid cells.