Several cDNA clones coding for the high molecular weight (alpha) subunit of the voltage-sensitive Na channel have been selected by immunoscreening a rat brain cDNA library constructed in the expression vector lambda gt11. As will be reported elsewhere, the amino acid sequence translated from the DNA sequence shows considerable homology to that reported for the Electrophorus electricus electroplax Na channel. Several of the cDNA inserts hybridized with a low-abundance 9-kilobase RNA species from rat brain, muscle, and heart. Sucrose-gradient fractionation of rat brain poly(A) RNA yielded a high molecular weight fraction containing this mRNA, which resulted in functional Na channels when injected into oocytes. This fraction contained undetectable amounts of low molecular weight RNA. The high molecular weight Na channel RNA was selected from rat brain poly(A) RNA by hybridization to a single-strand antisense cDNA clone. Translation of this RNA in Xenopus oocytes resulted in the appearance of tetrodotoxin-sensitive voltage-sensitive Na channels in the oocyte membrane. These results demonstrate that mRNA encoding the alpha subunit of the rat brain Na channel, in the absence of any beta-subunit mRNA, is sufficient for translation to give functional channels in oocytes.