The major phenobarbital-inducible rat hepatic cytochromes P-450, CYP2B1 and CYP2B2, are the paradigmatic members of a cytochrome P-450 gene subfamily that contains at least seven additional members. Specific oligonucleotide probes for these genomic members of the CYP2B subfamily were used to assess their tissue-specific expression. In Northern-blot analysis a probe specific to gene 4 (which is designated now as CYP2B12) hybridized to a single mRNA present in the preputial gland, an organ which is used as a model for sebaceous glands, but did not hybridize to mRNA isolated from the liver or from five other tissues of untreated or Aroclor 1254-treated rats. The cDNA sequence for the CYP2B12 RNA was determined from overlapping cDNA clones and contained a long open reading frame of 1476 bp. The nucleotide sequence of the CYP2B12 cDNA was 85% similar to the sequence of the CYP2B1 cDNA in its coding region and was different from any CYP2B cDNA characterized until now. The cDNA-derived primary structure of the CYP2B12 protein contains a signal sequence for its insertion into the endoplasmic reticulum and the putative haem-binding site characteristic of cytochromes P-450. A part of the potential haem pocket of CYP2B12 was identical with a similar structure in a bacterial protocatechuate dioxygenase. In immunoblot analysis of preputial-gland microsomes, antibodies against CYP2B1 recognized a single abundant protein with a lower apparent molecular mass than that of CYP2B1. Our results demonstrate that the CYP2B12 protein has the potential to be enzymically active and are the first demonstration that a member of the CYP2B subfamily is expressed exclusively and at high levels in an extrahepatic organ.