We analyzed the expression of plasma glutathione peroxidase (GSHPx-P) messenger RNA (mRNA) in mouse, rat, and human tissues, using a human GSHPx-P cDNA clone as the probe. Unlike the classical cellular glutathione peroxidase (GSHPx-1), GSHPx-P expression appears to be tissue-specific. In the mouse and rat, kidney expresses an mRNA at a high level detected with the human probe. A signal is also detected in mRNA isolated from mouse and rat heart, rat cardiac myocytes, mouse lung, epididymis, and the mammary gland of midpregnant mice. No signal is detected in mRNA isolated from mouse and rat liver, mouse brain, uterus, and testis. In human tissues, an mRNA hybridizing to GSHPx-P cDNA is present in liver, as well as kidney, heart, lung, breast, and placenta. We have shown that human kidney expresses a GSHPx-P mRNA, and not a GSHPx-P-like message, by isolating a cDNA clone from a human kidney library in lambda gt11. From the 412-nucleotide partial sequence of the kidney cDNA, which codes for the 40-170 amino acids of GSHPx-P including the TGA codon for selenocysteine, we found complete sequence identity of the kidney cDNA with GSHPx-P isolated from placenta. The expression of GSHPx-P mRNA in cell lines was also studied. There is some correlation of the expression of GSHPx-P in these cell lines with that in normal tissues. Cell lines that expressed GSHPx-P mRNA or protein included the human hepatocarcinoma HepG2, Hep3B cells, human kidney carcinoma A498 cells, and the human breast cancer SK-BR-3, T47D, MDA-MB-231, and AdrrMCF-7 cells. Cell lines that did not express GSHPx-P included human choriocarcinoma BeWo cells, human breast cancer MCF-7, ZR-75-1, and Hs578T cells, and mouse hepatoma Hepa-1 cells.