ComplementC4 shows extensive structural and functional similarity to complementC3, hence these components are believed to have originated by gene duplication from a common ancestor. Although to dateC3 cDNA clones have been isolated from all major classes of extant vertebrates includingXenopus, C4 cDNA clones have been isolated from mammalian species only. We describe here the molecular cloning and structural analysis ofXenopus C4 cDNA. The cDNA sequence encoding the thioester region ofXenopus C4 was amplified by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction usingXenopus liver mRNA as a template, and then used to screen a liver cDNA library. The amino acid sequence ofXenopus C4 deduced from a clone containing the entire protein-coding sequence showed 39%, 30%, 25%, and 20% overall identity with those of human C4, C3, C5, and α2-macroglobulin, respectively. The predicted amino acid sequence consisted of a 22-residue putative signal peptide, a 634-residue β chain, a 732-residue α chain, and a 287-residue γ chain. Of 30 cysteine residues, 27 were found in exactly the same positions as in humanC4. Genomic Southern blotting analysis indicated thatC4 is a single copy gene inXenopus and is part of the frog MHC cluster. These results clearly demonstrate thatC3/C4 gene duplication and linkage between theC4 gene and the major histocompatibility complex predate mammalian/amphibian divergence.