The cDNA for a 54-kDa nuclear protein (p54) has been cloned from a human hepatoma expression library. Contained within p54 is an arginine/serine-rich region similar to segments of several proteins that participate in pre-mRNA splicing including the 70-kDa component of U1 small nuclear and "suppressor-of-white-apricot" proteins. The arginine/serine-rich region is dominated by a series of 8-amino acid imperfect repetitive motifs (consensus sequence, Arg-Arg-Ser-Arg-Ser-Arg-Ser-Arg). Antibodies raised against synthetic peptides of p54 react with an approximately 70-kDa protein on immunoblots of HeLa cell and rat liver nuclear proteins. This apparent discrepancy in mass is also observed when p54 mRNA is translated in vitro. Indirect immunofluorescence studies in HeLa cells show that p54 is distributed throughout the nucleus in a speckled pattern, with an additional diffuse labeling of the nucleus excluding the nucleoli. Double immunofluorescence experiments indicate that these punctate regions are coincident with the speckles seen in cells stained with antibodies against several constituents of the pre-mRNA splicing machinery. Sedimentation analysis of HeLa cell extracts on sucrose gradients showed that p54 migrates at 4-6 S, indicating that the protein is not a tightly associated component of snRNPs. Although the function of p54 is not yet known, our structure and immunolocalization data suggest that this protein may have a role in pre-mRNA processing.