The calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II is a major component of brain synaptic junctions and has been proposed to play a variety of important roles in brain function. A complementary DNA representing a portion of the smaller 50-kilodalton subunit of the rat brain enzyme has been cloned and sequenced. The calmodulin-binding region has been identified and a synthetic analog prepared that binds calmodulin with high affinity in the presence of calcium. Like the 50-kilodalton kinase polypeptide, the concentration of the messenger RNA varies both neuroanatomically and during postnatal development of the brain. The broad tissue and species cross-reactivity of the complementary DNA suggests that the 50-kilodalton subunit found in rat brain is evolutionarily conserved and is the product of a single gene.