There are three active raf genes in man and at least two in Xenopus and Drosophila. The mammalian c- and A-raf genes have 16 coding exons, which span 40 and 20 kb, respectively. B-raf is larger and extends over greater than 46 kb. Human c-raf-1 maps to chromosome 3p25 and A-raf-1 to Xp21. c-raf-1 RNA is present in many tissues, while A-raf and B-raf expression is restricted. A- and c-raf encode cytoplasmic ser/thr protein kinases of 68 and 74 kDa, which contain three conserved regions (CR). CR1 and 2 are in the amino terminal half, CR1 comprises the presumed ligand binding site, and CR3 represents the carboxy terminal kinase domain. All three genes can be artificially activated by deletions, provided CR3 is preserved. However, only c-raf-1 occurs naturally in truncated versions, such as v-raf and v-mil in the acutely transforming retroviruses 3611-MSV and MH2. raf transformation can also be affected by point mutation, suggesting that this mechanism may activate c-raf-1 as an oncogene in carcinogenesis.