The human sex-linked genes RPS4X and RPS4Y encode distinct isoforms of ribosomal protein S4. Insufficient expression of S4 may play a role in the development of Turner syndrome, the complex human phenotype associated with monosomy X. In mice, the S4 protein is encoded by an X-linked gene, Rps4, and is identical to human S4X; there is no mouse Y homolog. We report here the organization of the human RPS4X and RPS4Y and mouse Rps4 genes. Each gene comprises seven exons; the positions of introns are conserved. The 5' flanking sequences of human RPS4X and mouse Rps4 are very similar, while RPS4Y diverges shortly upstream of the transcription start site. In chickens, S4 is encoded by a single gene that is not sex linked. The chicken protein differs from human S4X by four amino acid substitutions, all within a region encoded by a single exon. Three of the four substitutions are also present in human S4Y, suggesting that the chicken S4 gene may have arisen by recombination between S4X- and S4Y-like sequences. Using isoform-specific antisera, we determined that human S4X and S4Y are both present in translationally active ribosomes. S4Y is about 10 to 15% as abundant as S4X in ribosomes from normal male placental tissue and 46,XY cultured cells. In 49,XYYYY cells, S4Y is about half as abundant as S4X. In 49,XXXXY cells, S4Y is barely detectable. These results bear on the hypothesized role of S4 deficiency in Turner syndrome.