Elevated levels of plasma homocysteine is a risk factor in both birth defects and vascular disease. Methionine synthase (MS) is a cobalamin dependent enzyme which catalyzes methylation of homocysteine to methionine. Impaired MS activity is expected to lead to increased levels of plasma homocysteine. In addition, defects in this gene may underlie the methionine-dependence observed in a number of human tumor cell lines. We describe here the isolation and characterization of the human MS cDNA. It contains an open reading frame of 3798 nucleotides encoding a protein of 1265 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 140 kDa. The amino acid sequence of the human MS is 55% identical with that of the Escherichia coli enzyme (METH) and 64% identical with the predicted Caenorhabditis elegans enzyme. Seven peptide sequences derived from purified porcine MS have substantial similarity to the human protein. Northern analysis indicates that the MS RNA is present in a wide variety of tissues. We have mapped the human gene to chromosomal location 1q43, a region found monosomic in individuals with deletion 1q syndrome. The isolation of the MS cDNA will now allow the direct determination of whether mutations in this gene contribute to folate-related neural tube defects, cardiovascular diseases, and birth defects.