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Several recombinant cDNA clones specific for the mitochondrial iron-sulfur protein adrenodoxin have been identified in a bovine adrenocortical cDNA library. One clone (pBAdx4) contains a 900-base-pair insert that includes the entire amino acid coding region of the adrenodoxin precursor protein. The amino acid sequence of mature adrenodoxin deduced from the nucleotide sequence of pBAdx4 is identical with that determined by protein sequencing except for three amide changes. The previously undetermined sequence of the adrenodoxin NH2-terminal precursor segment (58 amino acids) contains several basic residues, a characteristic feature of the precursor segment of proteins destined for mitochondria. In addition, a 14 amino acid extension is present at the COOH terminus of the mature adrenodoxin sequence. Whether this represents a COOH-terminal precursor segment is not clear. Three different adrenodoxin mRNAs are present [1.75, 1.4, and 0.95 kilobase(s) long] in bovine adrenocortical RNA. RNA from bovine corpus luteum, liver, and kidney contains transcripts that hybridize to adrenodoxin cDNA. Accumulation of adrenodoxin mRNA occurs in cultured bovine adrenocortical cells after treatment with ACTH or dibutyryl-cAMP, similar to that observed for the mitochondrial steroid hydroxylases that it services--namely, the cholesterol side-chain-cleavage cytochrome P-450 and the steroid 11 beta-hydroxylase cytochrome P-450.