Selenoprotein P is a plasma protein recently purified and characterized as containing 7.5 +/- 1.0 selenium atoms/molecule as selenocysteine. In rats maintained on a defined diet containing nutritionally adequate amounts of selenate as the sole selenium source, over half the selenium in plasma is accounted for by selenoprotein P. Its cDNA has been cloned from a rat liver library and sequenced. The sequence is highly unusual, containing 10 TGA codons in its open reading frame prior to the TAA termination codon. TGA designates selenocysteine in other selenoproteins, and limited peptide sequencing that included the amino acids encoded by two of the TGA codons verified that they correspond to selenocysteine. The deduced 366-amino acid sequence is histidine- and cysteine-rich and contains 9 of its selenocysteines in the terminal 122 amino acids. Comparison of the deduced amino acid sequence of selenoprotein P with those of other selenoprotein reveals no significant similarities. Selenoprotein P represents a new class of selenoproteins and is the first protein described with more than 1 selenocysteine in a single polypeptide chain. The primary structure of selenoprotein P suggests that it might be responsible for some of the antioxidant properties of selenium.