A lambda gt11 expression library containing cDNA inserts prepared from human placental mRNA was screened immunologically using an antibody probe developed against the beta-migrating plasminogen activator inhibitor (beta-PAI) purified from cultured bovine aortic endothelial cells. Thirty-four positive clones were isolated after screening 7 X 10(5) phages. Three clones (lambda 1.2, lambda 3, and lambda 9.2) were randomly picked and further characterized. These contained inserts 1.9, 3.0, and 1.9 kilobases (kb) long, respectively. Escherichia coli lysogenic for lambda 9.2, but not for lambda gt11, produced a fusion protein of 180 kDa that was recognized by affinity-purified antibodies against the bovine aortic endothelial cell beta-PAI and had beta-PAI activity when analyzed by reverse fibrin autography. The largest cDNA insert was sequenced and shown to be 2944 base pairs (bp) long. It has a large 3' untranslated region [1788 bp, excluding the poly(A) tail] and contains the entire coding region of the mature protein but lacks the initiation codon and part of the signal peptide coding region at the 5' terminus. The two clones carrying the 1.9-kb cDNA inserts were partially sequenced and shown to be identical to the 3.0-kb cDNA except that they were truncated, lacking much of the 3' untranslated region. Blot hybridization analysis of electrophoretically fractionated RNA from the human fibrosarcoma cell line HT-1080 was performed using the 3.0-kb cDNA as hybridization probe. Two distinct transcripts, 2.2 and 3.0 kb, were detected, suggesting that the 1.9-kb cDNA may have been copied from the shorter RNA transcript. The amino acid sequence deduced from the cDNA was aligned with the NH2-terminal sequence of the human beta-PAI. Based on this alignment, the mature human beta-PAI is 379 amino acids long and contains an NH2-terminal valine. The deduced amino acid sequence has extensive (30%) homology with alpha 1-antitrypsin and antithrombin III, indicating that the beta-PAI is a member of the serine proteinase inhibitor (serpin) superfamily.