The nucleotide sequence for a glutamine synthetase (GS) mRNA from gene-amplified Chinese hamster (CHO) cells was determined from recombinant cDNA clones obtained from both pBR322 and lambda gt10 libraries and by primer extension. The sequence obtained contains about 1400 bp corresponding to a minor species of mRNA terminated by a poly A sequence. The mRNA contains 146 nucleotides of 5'-noncoding region, 1119 bp of coding sequence, and 108 bp of 3'-noncoding sequence with a 32 bp poly(A) tail. The polyadenylation site used shows little homology with efficient polyadenylation sites, but has considerable complementarity with U4 RNA. The predicted amino acid sequence, starting from an initiation codon with the preferred sequence surrounding it, indicates that Chinese hamster GS has high homology with published bovine brain GS peptides and enabled an ordering of these peptides. There is homology between the mammalian GS enzymes and glutamine synthetases obtained from plants and cyanobacteria but no obvious homology between the CHO cell GS sequence and that of other ATP hydrolysing enzymes.