Abstract A cDNA clone, pZOV3, was isolated from the cDNA library of immature chicken ovaries and its gene was mapped to the middle of the short arm of the Z chromosome. The cDNA sequence suggests that ZOV3 is a novel member of the immunoglobulin superfamily. cDNA clones of homologues of chicken ZOV3 were also obtained from Japanese quail and pigeon. Northern blot hybridization suggests that the high-level expression of the ZOV3 gene is restricted to the gonads: embryonic, immature and mature ovaries, and embryonic and immature testes. Western blot analysis and immunocytological detection using specific polyclonal antibodies against amino- and carboxyl-terminal regions of ZOV3 demonstrate that ZOV3 is a plasma membrane-bound glycoprotein that exists in granulosa cells and islets of cells in the theca externa layer of ovarian follicles. The latter islets coincide with those producing estradiol-17β. In male and female embryos, production of ZOV3 is first prominent in medullary and seminiferous codes, respectively, of developing gonads. Then, after hatching, it is shifted to the cortex surrounding the primitive follicles in the ovary or is continued weakly in the primary seminiferous tubules in the testis. Expression of the ZOV3 gene and production of ZOV3 are no longer detectable in the mature testis. ZOV3 is unique among the immunoglobulin superfamily proteins in that it is produced predominantly in gonads. Its possible role in differentiation or maintenance of steroidogenic cells in an ovarian follicle is discussed.