A rodent cortex-enriched mRNA, RC3, was identified by screening a rat brain cDNA library with a cortex-minus-cerebellum subtracted cDNA probe. Conceptual translation of RC3 cDNA sequences indicates that the rat and mouse mRNA encode identical, novel 78 amino acid proteins. The RC3 protein amino terminus contains a cysteine-rich domain similar to those found in snake venom neurotoxins; the carboxyl terminus contains a collagen-like motif that may function in the assembly of RC3 subunits into a multimeric protein. Western blot experiments with an antiserum to a synthetic peptide corresponding to 27 residues of the 78 residue sequence identify an immunoreactive polypeptide with 18 kDa gel mobility that is likely to correspond to the RC3 protein. Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization experiments show that RC3 mRNA is highly enriched in rat brain, with restricted expression in neuronal subsets primarily in the cortex, striatum, and hippocampus as well as certain nuclei within the thalamus, hypothalamus, the olfactory bulb.