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The nucleotide sequence of a human alpha-tubulin gene (b alpha 1) is described. This gene is extensively homologous to a rat alpha-tubulin gene in its coding regions, 3'-untranslated region and, indeed, in segments of its largest intron. However, with the exception of three short conserved blocks of homology, the 5' flanking regions of the rat and human genes are unrelated. Hence, these genes each encoding an identical protein are transcribed under the influence of divergent promoters. Blot analyses using RNA from a variety of transformed cells derived from different tissues indicate that expression of the human alpha-tubulin gene is restricted to cells of neurological origin. Among neurological cell types b alpha 1 expression is further restricted to adherent cells that are morphologically differentiated. The data presented suggest that the b alpha 1 gene encodes a prominent neuronal and glial alpha-tubulin and that b alpha 1 expression is a function of the differentiated state of these cells.