The chromosomal immune interferon gene of the rat (IFN-gamma) was identified by screening a recombinant rat lambda phage library with a human IFN-gamma cDNA probe. In contrast to the genes of other rat IFNs, this rat IFN-gamma chromosomal gene contains introns and its structural organization closely resembles that of the human and murine IFN-gamma genes. The rat IFN-gamma gene encodes a signal sequence of 19 amino acids followed by the mature IFN-gamma protein of 137 amino acids. The gene was expressed under control of the simian virus 40 (SV40) early promoter in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells deficient in dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) after co-transformation with a plasmid containing the mouse DHFR gene. Initial transformants with a DHFR+ phenotype produced IFN-gamma titres ranging from 20 to 1600 units/ml. After stepwise increases in the concentration of methotrexate (MTX) in the growth medium of transformed CHO cells, MTX-resistant clones producing 80 000-100 000 units per ml were isolated. Protein analysis of supernatants of these MTX-resistant cells by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed a product with an apparent mol. wt. of 18 000 daltons which was not detectable in the growth medium of DHFR+ transformants that did not produce IFN. The product was identified as rat IFN-gamma and constituted approximately 5% of the proteins excreted from these cells.