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Two full-length cDNA clones encoding bovine adrenocortical P450C21 have been constructed in a eukaryotic expression vector using partial-length cDNAs whose structures have been previously reported. Following expression of these cDNAs in COS 1 cells, the substrate specificity of P450C21 was determined. Of the 18 steroids tested, progesterone, 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone, and 11 beta,17 alpha-dihydroxyprogesterone were found to be the only steroids to serve as substrates for this adrenal enzyme, a much higher degree of substrate specificity than has been reported for a hepatic 21-hydroxylase. The Vmax for 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone was 2.5 times greater than that for progesterone, whereas delta 5-steroids were unable to serve as substrate for this enzyme. A difference between the two cDNAs is located at amino acid 401 where one resultant enzyme contains tyrosine while the other contains histidine. This amino acid difference appears to have no effect on the kinetic properties of adrenal P450C21.