Complementary DNA (cDNA) clones encoding human macrophage-specific specific colony-stimulating factor (CSF-1) were isolated. One cDNA clone codes for a mature polypeptide of 224 amino acids and a putative leader of 32 amino acids. This cDNA, which was cloned in the Okayama-Berg expression vector, specifies the synthesis of biologically active CSF-1 in COS cells, as determined by a specific radioreceptor assay, macrophage bone marrow colony formation, and antibody neutralization. Most of the cDNA isolates contain part of an intron sequence that changes the reading frame, resulting in an abrupt termination of translation; these cDNA's were inactive in COS cells. The CSF-1 appears to be encoded by a single-copy gene, but its expression results in the synthesis of several messenger RNA species, ranging in size from about 1.5 to 4.5 kilobases.