Since apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) and HDL stimulate the expression of the placental hormone human placental lactogen (hPL), experiments were performed to determine whether the human placenta synthesizes apo A-I. Western blot analysis of a partially purified extract of human term placenta with an antiserum to human apo A-I yielded an immunoreactive band with an apparent mass of approximately 23.5 kDa, which is smaller than human plasma apo A-I (28 kDa). HPLC chromatography of the partially purified placental extract on a preparative reverse-phase C-18 column yielded two fractions that reacted to the apo A-I antiserum. The mass of both fractions by mass spectral analysis was 22 721 daltons, and N-terminal amino acid sequences were identical to the first four amino acids of apo A-I (Asp, Glu, Pro, Pro). The apo A-I-like protein was not a proteolytic product of apo A-I since Northern analysis of placental RNA with a 641 bp apo A-I cDNA fragment encoding most of the 5' region of the apo A-I mRNA detected a single band of 850 nt, which is smaller than the size of apo A-I mRNA (1100 nt). Placental mRNA, however, did not hybridize with a 3' apo A-I riboprobe, indicating that the 3' region of the apo A-I-like mRNA is different from that of apo A-I mRNA. Differences in the mRNAs were confirmed by S1 nuclease analysis of placental RNA with a cDNA probe that included the 3' end of the apo A-I cDNA and by RT-PCR analysis with a series of oligonucleotide primers that span the entire cDNA for apo A- I. Since there is only a single apo A-I gene in the human genome, these findings strongly suggest that human placental tissue expresses a novel 22.7 kDa apo A-I-like protein (ALP) that results from alternative splicing of the apo A-I primary transcript.