Sodium reabsorption by the amiloride-sensitive sodium channel of epithelial cells plays a crucial role in the management of ionic composition and fluid volume in the body. In the respiratory system, sodium transport is involved in the clearance of pulmonary edema and of liquid secreted during fetal life at birth. We have cloned a partial cDNA of the alpha subunit of the mouse amiloride-sensitive sodium channel (alpha mENaC). In the region of comparison, the mouse alpha subunit shows 92% identity at the DNA level and 95% identity at the amino acid level with the rat sequence. The kidneys, lungs, and distal colon are major sites of expression of a 3.5-kb alpha mENaC mRNA. During mouse development, alpha mENaC transcripts appear late during gestation (d 17.5) and are expressed continuously thereafter. In the distal colon, a short 1.2-kb mRNA deleted of the 5' part of the transcript is detected during gestation and is replaced gradually by the mature 3.5-kb transcript after birth. Alpha mENaC and alpha1 Na+-K+-ATPase mRNAs have an expression profile that is modulated similarly during development for a given tissue. The expression of alpha mENaC transcripts increases transiently in the lungs at birth (2.5-fold), as for alpha1 Na+-K+-ATPase mRNAs (1.5-fold), suggesting that the expression of several components of the sodium transport system is modulated in the lungs at that time. In the kidney, there is no significant increase of alpha mENaC and alpha1 Na+-K+-ATPase mRNAs in newborns.