Recombinant DNA techniques were used to analyze the structure of the messenger RNA encoding a precursor of calcitonin, a small calcium-regulating hormone of 32 amino acids. Analyses of the nucleotide sequences of cloned complementary DNA's comprising the entire coding sequence of the messenger RNA revealed that calcitonin is flanked at both its amino and carboxyl termini by peptide extensions linked to the hormone by short sequences of basic amino acids. The location of glycine next to the carboxyl terminal prolinamide of calcitonin is consistent with indications that glycine is required for the enzymatic amidation of proline to the prolinamide. During cellular biosynthesis, calcitonin arises from a large precursor protein by cleavages at both amino and carboxyl terminal residues of the hormone. These findings raise questions concerning the regulation of these cleavages and the potential biological functions of the precursor extensions derived from these cleavages.