The gene for rat pancreatic elastase I is selectively expressed to high levels in the rat exocrine pancreas. When the cloned rat elastase I gene with 7 kb upstream and 5 kb downstream flanking sequences was introduced into mice by microinjection into fertilized eggs, the gene was expressed in a pancreas-specific manner. In four of five transgenic mice, the level of rat elastase I mRNA in the pancreas was equal to or greater than the normal rat level (10,000 mRNAs per cell) and correlated with the number of integrated gene copies. In nonpancreatic tissues the levels were at least 10(3)-fold lower, except for expression in the liver of one mouse. Thus transfer of a 23 kb genomic DNA segment containing the rat elastase I gene to a foreign chromosomal location in the mouse can give rise to qualitatively and quantitatively normal expression.