γ-Glutamyltransferase (GGT, EC 18.104.22.168) is an enzyme involved in glutathione metabolism and drug and xenobiotic detoxification. Using human hepatoma Hep G2 GGT cDNA as probe, we isolated a cDNA from a human pancreatic cDNA library. Analysis of the nucleotide sequences revealed a 2244-bp insert that includes an open reading frame of 1710 bp, encoding a protein identical to the Hep G2 and human placenta GGTs. Similarly, the 5' untranslated region, though shorter, is highly homologous to that of Hep G2 cDNA. These data suggest strongly that the same gene encodes human GGT in the placenta, Hep G2 and the pancreas. We further studied the distribution of the corresponding mRNA, called type I mRNA, in different human tissues. Using a highly sensitive method associating reverse transcription with specific amplification by polymerase chain reaction, cDNA was synthesized from total RNA isolated from the tissues and GGT specific fragments were amplified. We observed the presence of a specific cDNA fragment corresponding to the type I mRNA in the human tissues and cells tested, providing the evidence for a ubiquitous expression of this GGT mRNA in human tissues.