We report the cloning, nucleotide (nt) sequence and expression of the cDNA (pah) encoding phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) of Drosophila melanogaster. The strong hybridization signals observed in genomic blots when D. melanogaster DNA was probed with 32P-labeled human pah cDNA, indicated the existence of a high degree of sequence similarity between the pah genes of both species. The length of the pah genomic fragment is about 30 to 40 kb. The cDNA contains 84 bp of the 5'-untranslated region, 1359 bp of the protein-coding region and 87 bp of the 3' region, with only one polyadenylation signal. The isolated cDNA is probably full-length, since the size of the D. melanogaster PAH mRNA is 1.5 kb. At the nt level, the similarity of the D. melanogaster cDNA with human and rat pah cDNAs is 57.9% and 58.1%, respectively. The highest similarities are restricted to the nt sequence coding for the presumed hydroxylation domain. There is no nt sequence similarity between the first three exons of the human pah gene and an equivalent fraction of the D. melanogaster pah gene. At the amino acid (aa) level, the similarity in the presumed hydroxylation domain is 88.5%, in which two motifs of the structure AGLLSSXXXL are found, where X represents any aa. It was interesting to notice the conservation of aa 408, 311 and 280, where mutations are associated with phenylketonuria in humans. We observed, moreover, that, as it occurs in humans and rats, the expression of the D. melanogaster pah gene is tissue-specific and temporally regulated.