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The structure of gene sequences coding for the mRNA of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) alpha-subunit was investigated by Southern blot analysis of genomic DNAs using a cloned, full length cDNA probe. While four hormones, lutropin, follitropin, thyrotropin, and choriogonadotropin, have homologous alpha-subunits, only one gene that bears hCG-alpha sequences could be detected per haploid complement. The structure of this single gonadotropin alpha-subunit gene, which contains intervening sequences, is the same in DNA from first trimester and term placentae. However polymorphism was observed for the presence of a HindIII site and of an Eco RI site in the gene's 3' flanking sequences. The organization of hCG-alpha sequences in several trophoblastic and nontrophoblastic tumor cell lines, which produce hCG subunits, was also examined. In each, the same gene copy number and structure were seen as in normal tissue. Thus, the characteristics of ectopic alpha-subunit expression in these cells seem not to be determined by DNA rearrangements.