We previously reported the purification of ps20 (Rowley, D. R., Dang, T. D., Larsen, M., Gerdes, M. J., McBride, L., and Lu, B. (1995) J. Biol. Chem. 270, 22058-22065), a urogenital sinus mesenchymal cell secreted protein having growth-inhibitory properties. We report here cloning of the 1.03-kilobase rat ps20 cDNA clone from the PS-1 (adult rat prostate smooth muscle) cDNA library. Partial clones were obtained by nested polymerase chain reaction with degenerate primers, and full-length ps20 cDNA clones were isolated by plaque hybridization. Sequence analysis revealed that ps20 protein contains a WAP-type "four-disulfide core" motif and is a novel member of the WAP signature protein family composed primarily of secreted serine protease inhibitors. Native ps20 immunoprecipitated from smooth muscle cells and recombinant ps20 both resolved on SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with apparent molecular mass of 27-29 kDa under reducing conditions and 21-23 kDa under non-reducing conditions, respectively. Stable ps20-transfectant COS-7 cell lines secreted ps20 and were growth-inhibited relative to mock transfectants. In addition, COS-7 and prostate carcinoma PC-3 cells were growth-inhibited by bacterially expressed ps20. Northern analysis indicated differential expression by tissue with highest expression in the heart. Immunohistochemical localization of ps20 protein showed cell-specific expression by both visceral and vascular smooth muscle in all tissues, including the prostate gland. These results indicate ps20 is a novel growth-regulatory member of the WAP signature family expressed by smooth muscle cells.