The S region of the murine major histocompatibility complex contains two structurally related genes (21-OHase A and 21-OHase B) that encode 21-hydroxylase (21-OHase), an enzyme essential for the synthesis of adrenal steroids. Expression of these two genes has been analyzed by using oligonucleotide probes specific for the 21-OHase A and B genes and by DNA-mediated gene transfer. Hybridization of the oligonucleotides to blots of BALB/c adrenal RNA demonstrated that all 21-OHase mRNA is derived from the 21-OHase A gene. Cosmids bearing either the 21-OHase A or B gene were introduced into Y1 adrenocortical tumor cells by cotransfection with pSV2-neo. Cells transfected with the 21-OHase A gene expressed 21-OHase as determined by steroid metabolism and by RNA blot hybridization; 21-OHase transcripts were not detected in parent Y1 cells or in cells transfected with the 21-OHase B gene. Treatment of 21-OHase A transfectants with adrenocorticotropin increased 21-OHase mRNA levels by up to 10-fold, thus mimicking the observed effect of this hormone on 21-OHase levels in primary adrenal cultures. The regulated expression of the 21-OHase A gene in transfected Y1 cells should provide a useful system for the investigation of factors controlling the adrenal-specific regulation of 21-OHase activity.