Screening of a sheep genomic λ library with a sheep metallothionein-I cDNA clone resulted in the isolation of a 13,200-base-pair fragment containing a metallothionein gene which DNA sequence analysis identified as the gene encoding the cloned cDNA. The two introns occur at identical positions to those in other mammalian metallothioneins but are considerably larger. The first intron contains a DNA element that is present in a related but not identical form in many places in the sheep genome. Comparison of the promoter sequences of this gene (sMT-Ia) with the promoters of metallothionein genes from other species identified a number of conserved regions which may be important in the regulation of this gene by heavy metals, glucocorticoids and α-interferon. In sheep fibroblasts, the levels of sMT-Ia mRNA was found to be maximally elevated (95-fold) in the presence of zinc or cadmium and elevated 30-fold in the presence of copper. Dexamethasone had no effect upon mRNA levels. Thus this gene shows a pattern of regulation similar to the human MT-If gene, but distinct from the other human and mouse metallothionein genes so far reported.