Occludin has been identified from chick liver as a novel integral membrane protein localizing at tight junctions, and the cDNA encoding its mammalian homologue was identified very recently (Ando-Akatsuka, Y., M. Saitou, T. Hirase, M. Kishi, A. Sakakibara, M. Itoh, S. Yonemura, M. Furuse, Sh. Tsukita, J. Cell Biol. 133, 43-47 (1996)). Here we describe the basic properties of mammalian occludin in epithelial cells at the DNA, RNA, and protein levels. The human occludin gene was mapped to chromosome band 5q13.1 by fluorescent in situ hybridization. Northern blotting identified several occludin mRNA bands, suggesting the possible expression of several alternatively spliced products. Occludin mRNA was detected in cultured epithelial cells, but not in cultured fibroblasts. The mRNA level was high in the testis, kidney, liver, lung, and brain, which reportedly bear well-developed tight junctions. We then produced monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies using recombinant mouse occludin as the antigen, which reacted not only with mouse, but also human, dog and pig occludin. These antibodies recognized several bands around 60 kDa in epithelial cells but not in fibroblasts. Immunofluorescence microscopy of various tissues revealed that the staining intensity of occludin correlated well with the number of tight junction strands in epithelial cells. By contrast, the staining of ZO-1, a well-characterized tight junction-associated protein, was not specific for tight junctions. Furthermore, the exclusive concentration of occludin at tight junctions in epithelial cells was confirmed by immunoreplica electron microscopy.