Human protein 4.2 (P4.2) is a major membrane skeletal protein in erythrocytes. Individuals with P4.2 deficiency exhibit spherocytosis and experience various degrees of hemolytic anemia, suggesting a role for this protein in maintaining stability and integrity of the membrane. Molecular cloning of P4.2 cDNAs showed that P4.2 is a transglutaminaselike molecule in erythrocytes but lacks the essential cysteine for cross-linking activity. Two cDNA isoforms have been identified from a human reticulocyte cDNA library, with the long isoform containing a 90-base pair (bp) in-frame insertion encoding an extra 30 amino acids near the N-terminus. Characterization of the P4.2 gene suggests differential splicing as the mechanism for generating these two cDNA isoforms. The donor site for the short isoform (P4.2S) agrees better with the consensus than the donor site for the long isoform (P4.2L) does. Expression of P4.2L was detected by a long- isoform-specific antibody raised against a peptide within the 30-amino acid insert. Western blot analyses showed P4.2L to be a minor membrane skeletal protein in human erythrocytes with an apparent molecular weight (mol wt) of approximately 3 Kd larger than the major protein 4.2, P4.2S. By in situ hybridization of a full-length 2.4-kilobase (kb) cDNA to human metaphase chromosomes, the gene for P4.2 was mapped to bands q15-q21 of chromosome 15, and it is not linked to the gene for coagulation factor XIIIa (plasma transglutaminase, TGase).