Lymphocytes harbor a pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA. In this report, a novel procedure was used to study the exonic arrangement of this transcript in lymphocytes. Poly(A)+ mRNA, purified from both corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF)-treated and nontreated lymphocytes, was selectively reverse-transcribed using an antisense oligonucleotide primer complementary to the 3′ junction of the translated/nontranslated region of exon 3 of POMC. Alkaline agarose gel analysis of first-strand cDNA synthesis showed an upregulation of POMC transcripts in CRF-treated cells. This first-strand cDNA was amplified in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using the complementary antisense primer and selective sense primers homologous to the 5′ ends of exons 1, 2, and 3, as well as a region immediately 5′ to the ACTH/β-lipotropin coding region of exon 3 of pituitary POMC. Primers directed at exons 1 and 2 did not amplify a POMC product in nontreated control or CRF-treated cells. However, with both treated and nontreated cells, the internal exon 3 primer amplified the expected size exon 3 DNA fragment (∼ 549 bp). Interestingly, a primer directed at the 5′ end of exon 3 apparently did not amplify a POMC product in nontreated cells butdid amplify a full-size POMC exon 3 from CRF-treated cells (∼ 615 bp). However, upon reamplification of the original PCR products from nontreated cells, full-length exon 3 product was also observed. Southern gel analysis using a pituitary POMC cDNA probe showed that all of the above PCR products were POMC-related. The results of this study show that lymphocytes basally transcribe at least two POMC transcripts that are upregulated by CRF. These two transcripts lack exons 1 and 2 but contain either part or all of exon 3. The smaller exon 3 transcript was the most abundant transcript under all conditions examined. © 1991.