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Vertebrate cells synthesize two forms of the 82- to 90-kilodalton heat shock protein that are encoded by distinct gene families. In HeLa cells, both proteins (hsp89 alpha and hsp89 beta) are abundant under normal growth conditions and are synthesized at increased rates in response to heat stress. Only the larger form, hsp89 alpha, is induced by the adenovirus E1A gene product (M. C. Simon, K. Kitchener, H. T. Kao, E. Hickey, L. Weber, R. Voellmy, N. Heintz, and J. R. Nevins, Mol. Cell. Biol. 7:2884-2890, 1987). We have isolated a human hsp89 alpha gene that shows complete sequence identity with heat- and E1A-inducible cDNA used as a hybridization probe. The 5'-flanking region contained overlapping and inverted consensus heat shock control elements that can confer heat-inducible expression on a beta-globin reporter gene. The gene contained 10 intervening sequences. The first intron was located adjacent to the translation start codon, an arrangement also found in the Drosophila hsp82 gene. The spliced mRNA sequence contained a single open reading frame encoding an 84,564-dalton polypeptide showing high homology with the hsp82 to hsp90 proteins of other organisms. The deduced hsp89 alpha protein sequence differed from the human hsp89 beta sequence reported elsewhere (N. F. Rebbe, J. Ware, R. M. Bertina, P. Modrich, and D. W. Stafford (Gene 53:235-245, 1987) in at least 99 out of the 732 amino acids. Transcription of the hsp89 alpha gene was induced by serum during normal cell growth, but expression did not appear to be restricted to a particular stage of the cell cycle. hsp89 alpha mRNA was considerably more stable than the mRNA encoding hsp70, which can account for the higher constitutive rate of hsp89 synthesis in unstressed cells.