We have identified and characterized lambda bacteriophage clones containing genomic DNA encoding rat malic enzyme [(S)-malate:NADP+ oxidoreductase (oxaloacetate-decarboxylating); EC 18.104.22.168]. The malic enzyme gene is unexpectedly large, spanning at least 95 kilobases. It is divided into 14 exons that range in size from 76 to 1513 base pairs. The sizes and boundaries of the exons were determined by Southern blotting and DNA sequencing. The sequences at the 5' and 3' ends of each intron conformed to the consensus sequence for mammalian introns. S1 nuclease and primer-extension assays showed that transcription of the malic enzyme gene initiates at multiple sites, the strongest one at position -31 relative to the ATG. "TATA and CCAAT box" homologies are not present in the proximal promoter region. Analysis of the 3' end of the gene showed that the utilization of alternate polyadenylylation signals in exon 14 results in two mRNAs with 3' untranslated regions of 345 and 1345 nucleotides, respectively.