In oviparous vertebrates vitellogenin, the precursor of the major yolk proteins, is synthesized in the liver of mature females under the control of estrogen. We have established the organization and primary structure of the 5' end region of the Xenopus laevis vitellogenin A2 gene and of the major chicken vitellogenin gene. The first three homologous exons have exactly the same length in both species, namely 53, 21 and 152 nucleotides, and present an overall sequence homology of 60%. In both species, the 5'-non-coding region of the vitellogenin mRNA measures only 13 nucleotides, nine of which are conserved. In contrast, the corresponding introns of the Xenopus and the chicken vitellogenin gene show no significant sequence homology. Within the 500 nucleotides preceding the 5' end of the genes, at least six blocks with sequence homologies of greater than 70% were detected. It remains to be demonstrated which of these conserved sequences, if any, are involved in the hormone-regulated expression of the vitellogenin genes.