Abstract Deoxyribonuclease I (DNase I) was purified from the hen pancreas to electrophoretic homogeneity using six-step column chromatography. The purified enzyme showed a molecular mass of about 33 kDa and maximum activity at pH 7.0. It required divalent cations, Mg 2+ and Ca 2+, for its activity and was inhibited by EDTA, EGTA and an antibody specific to the purified enzyme but not by G-actin. A 1066-bp cDNA encoding hen DNase I was constructed from the total RNA of a hen pancreas using a combination of the reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction and rapid amplification of cDNA ends methods, followed by sequencing. The cDNA was expressed in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant polypeptide exhibited significant enzyme activity. The mature hen DNase I protein was found to consist of 262 amino acids. In human and bovine DNase I four amino acid residues, Glu-13, Tyr-65, Val-67 and Ala-114 are involved in actin binding, whereas in the hen DNase I these positions were occupied by Asp, Phe, Ser and Phe, respectively. A survey of the DNase I distribution in 15 hen tissues showed that the pancreas had the highest levels of both DNase I enzyme activity and DNase I gene expression. The results of our phylogenetic and immunological analyses indicate that the hen DNase I is not closely related to the mammalian enzymes. This is the first report in which has been described the results of molecular, biochemical and immunological analyses on hen DNase I.