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To examine the sequence complexity and differential expression of human alpha-tubulin genes, we constructed cDNA libraries from two unrelated tissue types (epidermis and fetal brain). The complete sequence of a positively hybridizing alpha-tubulin clone from each library is described. Each is shown to represent an abundantly expressed gene from fetal brain and keratinocytes, respectively. Although the coding regions are extensively homologous (97%), the 3' untranslated regions are totally dissimilar. This property has been used to dissect the human alpha-tubulin multigene family into members bearing sequence relatedness in this region. Surprisingly, each of these noncoding regions shares very high (65 to 80%) interspecies homology with the 3' untranslated region of one of the two rat alpha-tubulin genes of known sequence. These unexpected homologies imply the existence of selective pressure on the 3' untranslated regions of some cytoskeletal genes which maintains sequence fidelity during the course of evolution, perhaps as a consequence of an as yet unidentified functional requirement.