As a first step towards the development of a sensitive ribonuclease protection assay to study the regulation of somatolactin (SL) mRNA expression in pituitary cells of goldfish, we have isolated a complementary DNA (cDNA) clone encoding precursor sequence of SL from a cDNA library prepared from goldfish pituitary poly(A)+ RNA. The 843-bp goldfish SL (gfSL) cDNA has an open reading frame of 693 nucleotides with two possible start codons of AUG. Amino acid sequence alignment revealed that gfSL has the characteristics of four conserved domains (A, B, C and D) common to all SLs with the domain B being the most conserved region among all the characterized SLs. Similar to other teleost SLs, this gfSL is similarly related but clearly distinct from growth hormone and prolactin of goldfish and other teleosts. However, unlike most other known teleost SLs which have more than 70% amino acid sequence identity to each other, the overall amino acid sequence identity of this novel gfSL with other previously characterized SLs ranges from only 36% to 51%. Moreover, this gfSL contains only six cysteine residues, rather than seven in most other SLs, in conserved positions. Northern blot analysis revealed a single gfSL mRNA transcript of approximately 1 kb in the pituitaries of both sexually regressed and maturing male and female goldfish.