Human proteinase inhibitor 6 (PI-6) is a recently described protein belonging to the serine proteinase inhibitor (serpin) superfamily. Sequence similarity suggests that PI-6 most resembles the ovalbumin (ov) serpins which include plasminogen activator inhibitor-2, the squamous cell carcinoma antigen, monocyte/neutrophil elastase inhibitor, and maspin. Although these proteins are associated with carcinomas and inflammation, they appear to have diverse functions and little is known of their physiological roles. In this study we have characterized cDNA and genomic clones encoding mouse PI-6 in order to analyze the localization, structure, and expression of the gene. The reactive center residues (Arg-Cys) are conserved in the mouse molecule, and recombinant mouse PI-6 was shown to bind thrombin, indicating that it has similar inhibitory properties to its human counterpart. Using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays on RNA isolated from 15-day- old embryos and adult mice, we have shown that mouse PI-6 expression is developmentally regulated, and that, unlike human PI-6, it is absent from the placenta. The mouse homologue of the human PI-6 gene has been designated Spi3 and was mapped to chromosome 13 between the Pl1 and ctla2α genes. It spans 20 kilobases, consists of 7 exons and 6 introns, and contains a TATA motif 24 nucleotides upstream of the transcriptional start site. A 680-base pair DNA fragment containing this motif and 31 nucleotides of the 5'-untranslated region of the structural gene directed transcription of a bacterial cat gene, demonstrating the presence of a functional promoter. The PI-6 gene lacks an intron present in the ovalbumin and PAI-2 genes; otherwise it is identical in terms of the numbers, position, and phasing of the intron/exon boundaries. These results suggest that PI-6 and the ov-serpin genes have diverged and do not belong to the same subgroup.