Giardia lamblia trophozoites demonstrate variable expression of a repertoire of cysteine-rich surface antigens in vitro and in vivo. The size of the repertoire has been estimated at 20 to 184, and specific variants can be detected after approximately 12 generations of in vitro growth for the WB isolate. In earlier studies, we cloned a portion of the gene for a 170-kDa surface antigen (CRP170) and demonstrated by DNA sequencing that it was cysteine rich (12%) and contained 2.6 copies of a tandemly repeated 195-bp pair sequence. The clone hybridized to multiple bands on a Southern blot of G. lamblia DNA in a pattern that was variable among the cloned lines but did not correlate with expression of CRP170. We have now cloned a nearly full length cDNA as well as genomic clones for CRP170 from the WBA6 cloned isolate. In addition, we have isolated a cDNA clone from the WB1269 line (expressing CRP72), an antigenic variant which was derived from WBA6. Sequence analysis of the CRP170 and CRP72 genes revealed marked C-terminal amino acid homology, suggesting a conserved functional role such as membrane anchoring. The CRP170 repeat oligonucleotide hybridized to a stairstep of bands approximately 6 kb in size on HindIII-digested WBA6 DNA representing the expressed copy(ies) of CRP170. In contrast, there was no hybridization to a fragment of similar size in WB1269, suggesting that WB1269 trophozoites have lost the expressed copy of the CRP170 gene.