The mRNA of rat secretory-vesicle protein chromogranin B is abundant in brain, adrenal medulla, and anterior pituitary. The primary translation product predicted from the cDNA sequence of this 2,337-nucleotide transcript corresponds to a hydrophilic 655-residue protein preceded by a signal peptide. Both termini of the mature 75-kD protein show extensive similarity to other chromogranins; the more variable internal region is characterized by glutamic acid clusters and numerous pairs of basic residues. In rodent brain, mRNA accumulation starts around embryonic days 13-14 and peaks by postnatal day 20. In situ hybridization in brain sections shows that the mRNA is enriched in the hippocampal formation, the endocrine hypothalamus, the olfactory system, and in anatomically distinct structures in the pons-medulla.