We have identified a region with characteristics of a paternal-specific methylation imprint at the human H19 locus. This region, extending from -2.0 kb upstream to the start of transcription, is heavily methylated in sperm and on the paternal allele in somatic cells. This methylation was preserved during pre-implantation. Structural analysis revealed the presence of CpG islands and a large direct repeat with a 400 bp sequence reiterated several times, but no significant sequence homology to the corresponding region of the mouse H19 gene. These findings could suggest a role for secondary DNA structure in genomic imprinting across the species, and they also present a puzzling aspect of the evolution of the H19 regulatory region in human and mouse.