Two frequent protein variants of glutamate pyruvate transminase (GPT) (E.C.184.108.40.206) have been used as genetic markers in humans for more than two decades, although chromosomal mapping of the GPT locus in the 1980s produced conflicting results. To resolve this conflict and develop useful DNA markers for this gene, we isolated and characterized cDNA and genomic clones of GPT. We have definitively mapped human GPT to the terminus of 8q using several methods. First, two cosmids shown to contain the GPT sequence were derived from a chromosome 8-specific library. Second, by fluorescence in situ hybridization, we mapped the cosmid containing the human GPT gene to chromosome band 8q24.3. Third, we mapped the rat gpt cDNA to the syntenic region of rat chromosome 7. Finally, PCR primers specific to human GPT amplify sequences contained within a "half-YAC" from the long arm of chromosome 8, that is, a YAC containing the 8q telomere. The human GPT genomic sequence spans 2,7 kb and consists of 11 exons, ranging in size from 79 to 243 bp. The exonic sequence encodes a protein of 495 amino acids that is nearly identical to the previously reported protein sequence of human GPT-1. The two polymorphic GPT isozymes are the results of a nucleotide substitution in codon 14, coding for a histidine in GPT-1 and an asparagine in GPT-2, which causes a gain or loss of an NlaIII restriction site. In addition, a cosmid containing the GPT sequence also contains a previously unmapped, polymorphic microsatellite sequence, D8S421. The cloned GPT gene and associated polymorphisms will be useful for linkage and physical mapping of disease loci that map to the terminus of 8q, including atypical vitelliform macular dystrophy (VMD1) and epidermolysis bullosa simplex, type Ogna (EBS1). In addition, this will be a useful system for characterizing the telomeric region of 8q. Finally, determination of the molecular basis of the GPT isozyme variants will permit PCR-based detection of this world-wide polymorphism.