A cDNA-encoding glutamine synthetase (GS) was isolated from the marine diatom Skeletonema costatum (Greville) Cleve by PCR amplification. Nucleic acid and deduced amino acid sequences of the diatom GS were greater than 50% identical to GS from green algae and vascular plants, and phylogenetic analysis established the diatom GS as a member of the GSII gene family. The presence of an N-terminus signal sequence, identified on the basis of sequence similarity with other chloroplast-localized proteins from diatoms, suggests that the encoded GS isoenzyme is localized to the chloroplast. The GS mRNA was present in log-phase cells grown with either nitrate or ammonium as the sole added nitrogen source. Results from Southern blot analysis of genomic DNA suggested that the cDNA isolated in this study was either a member of a small, highly conserved gene family or that there was allelic variation within the region examined. Phylogenetic analyses further indicated that genes encoding GS from the diatom and two species of green algae diverged prior to the gene duplication, to the isoenzymes in vascular plants, supporting the hypothesis that GS isoenzymes in diatoms, green algae, and vascular plants arose through independent evolutionary events.