Recently, cDNA sequences have been reported for both human and murine tumor necrosis factor (TNF; cachectin). The coding region of the TNF genes is highly conserved between man and mouse; 80% homology is apparent at the amino acid level. We now observe that a 33-nucleotide sequence, comprised entirely of A and T residues and located in the 3'-untranslated region, is conserved in toto in the murine and human TNF mRNAs. Since the 3'-untranslated region is normally not conserved, we reasoned that this sequence might play a regulatory role. We identified a consensus sequence (TTATTTAT) present in the 3'-untranslated region of both human and mouse TNF mRNAs, as well as the mRNAs encoding human lymphotoxin, human colony stimulating factor, human and mouse interleukin 1, human and rat fibronectin, and most of the sequenced human and mouse interferons. All of these mRNAs, except the lymphotoxin mRNA, lack homology to the TNF mRNAs in the coding region. The consensus sequence is uncommon among mammalian mRNAs in general, but it appears with a frequency greater than chance alone would dictate, suggesting that it may serve a specific regulatory function among the mRNAs in which it is found. It is particularly prevalent among mRNAs encoding proteins related to the inflammatory response.