Polysialylation of the neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) reduces the efficacy of N-CAM-mediated homophilic binding and is regulated both during development and in regions undergoing neurogenesis or remodeling in the adult. Hamster PST-1 (PST) and rat STX are two related sialytransferases that catalyze the polysialylation of N-CAM. We have isolated a cDNA clone for the rat homologue of PST and compared its amino acid and nucleotide sequence to that of rat STX. This analysis revealed regions of high sequence similarity corresponding to the enzymatic domains of the two molecules. Other regions of lower similarity were used to generate specific probes for in situ hybridization. The distribution of PST and STX mRNAs, polysialic acid, and N-CAM were analyzed at three developmental stages. PST and STX mRNAs were expressed abundantly throughout the nervous system at embryonic day 15 and postnatal day 4 and were coexpressed in most tissues examined. In the adult brain, STX expression was reduced relative to PST and expression of both mRNAs was restricted to subsets of cells in areas undergoing constant synaptic rearrangement including hippocampus and olfactory system. The results suggest that both PST and STX participate in the polysialylation of N-CAM in vivo and that their expression levels are dynamically controlled during development and regeneration.