Recombinant DNA plasmids containing sequences coding for the alpha subunit of the bovine pituitary glycoprotein hormones have been isolated. The nucleotide sequences of three different cDNA clones have been determined. The largest alpha-subunit cDNA clone was found to contain 713 bases including 77 nucleotides from the 5'-untranslated region, 72 nucleotides coding for a precursor segment, 288 nucleotides coding for the mature alpha subunit, and 276 nucleotides from the 3'-untranslated region of the mRNA followed by a poly(A) segment. This cDNA likely represents most of the bovine alpha-subunit mRNA sequence. Nucleotide sequences were obtained from the cDNA inserts of two other alpha-subunit clones, and several differences among the three cDNA sequences have been detected. These differences in nucleotide sequence may represent either individual variation in genomic sequence or cloning artifacts. Comparison of the bovine alpha-subunit cDNA sequence to the sequences of human, rat, and mouse alpha-subunit cDNAs reveals that the bovine sequence has greater than 70% homology with the other cDNAs. The cloned alpha-subunit cDNA should provide a useful probe for further studies of the structure and expression of this interesting gene.