Two full-length cDNAs, gbr-2A and gbr-2B, encoding inhibitory amino acid receptor subunits have been amplified and cloned from Caenorhabditis elegans mRNA. The 5' 732 bp of the two cDNAs, encoding 237 amino acids, are identical. The 3' 758 bp of the gbr-2B cDNA are present within the 3' untranslated region of the gbr-2A clone. As a result, the two cDNAs are predicted to encode subunits which share a common extracellular N-terminal sequence of 237 amino acids, but different, though closely related, C-terminal sequences which include four predicted membrane-spanning regions. A search of the EMBL database revealed that the sequences of the two subunits are most closely related to the alpha-subunit of the C. elegans avermectin receptor. Northern blot analysis showed the presence of two related mRNAs of approximately 2.2 and 1.5 kb in a developmentally mixed population of C. elegans. The genomic DNA sequence confirms that both mRNAs were transcribed from the same gene, gbr-2, suggesting that the closely related 3' sequences have arisen as a result of a partial gene duplication event. We propose that C. elegans is utilising alternative splicing to generate receptor subunits with identical extracellular, ligand-binding domains but different transmembrane, channel forming domains.