doc-1 is a putative tumor suppressor gene isolated and identified from the hamster oral cancer model. Here, we report the molecular cloning and the functional characterization of the human ortholog of the hamster doc-1 gene. Human doc-1 cDNA is 1.6 kilobase pairs in length and encodes for a 115-amino acid polypeptide (12.4 kDa, pI 9. 53). Sequence analysis showed 98% identity between human and hamster doc-1 protein sequences. DOC-1 is expressed in all normal human tissues examined. In oral keratinocytes, expression of DOC-1 is restricted to normal oral keratinocytes. By immunostaining of normal human mucosa, DOC-1 is detected in both the cytoplasm and nuclei of basal oral keratinocytes; while in suprabasilar cells, it is primarily found in the nuclei. Human oral cancers in vivo did not exhibit immunostaining for DOC-1. Like murine DOC-1, human DOC-1 associates with DNA polymerase alpha/primase and mediates the phosphorylation of the large p180 catalytic subunit, suggesting it may be a potential regulator of DNA replication in the S phase of the cell cycle. Using a human doc-1 cosmid as a probe, human doc-1 is mapped to chromosome 12q24. We identified four exons in the entire human doc-1 gene and determined the intron-exon boundaries. By polymerase chain reaction and direct sequencing, we examined premalignant oral lesion and oral cancer cell lines and found no intragenic mutations.