We have previously isolated and sequenced the cDNA of a novel gene, DENN, that exhibits differential mRNA expression in normal and neoplastic cells. The open reading frame of 4761 nucleotides encodes a putative hydrophilic protein of 1587 amino acids with a calculated molecular mass of 176,431 Da. Within DENN cDNA lies an alternative exon segment of 129 nucleotides encoding 43 amino acids, which may be excluded from some transcripts by alternative splicing. The serine- and leucine-rich DENN protein possesses a RGD cellular adhesion motif and a leucine-zipper-like motif associated with protein dimerization, and shows partial homology to the receptor binding domain of tumor necrosis factor alpha. DENN is virtually identical to MADD, a human MAP kinase-activating death domain protein that interacts with type I tumor necrosis factor receptor. DENN displays significant homology to Rab3 GEP, a rat GDP/GTP exchange protein specific for Rab3 small G proteins implicated in intracellular vesicle trafficking. DENN also exhibits strong similarity to Caenorhabditis elegans AEX-3, which interacts with Rab3 to regulate synaptic vesicle release. Composed of 15 exons (ranging in size from 73 to 1230 bp) and 14 introns (varying from about 170 bp to 5.3 kb), the DENN gene is estimated to span at least 28 kb. The alternative splicing event was traced to an alternative 5' donor site involving exon 7. DENN was mapped to chromosome region 11p11.21-p11.22 by FISH. Using polyclonal antibodies against a synthetic peptide, Western blotting of MOLT-4 T-lymphoblastic leukemic cell proteins and immunoblotting of subcellular fractions of MOLT-4 cells and PLC/PRF/5 liver cancer cells yielded data corroborating the alternative splicing mechanism that generates two variant isoforms of the DENN protein that display differential expression in cells of different lineages.