The ZP3 gene encodes for a zona glycoprotein that serves as both a cell-specific binding site for capacitated spermatozoa and an inducer of acrosomal exocytosis during fertilisation. In this study we have determined the nucleotide sequence of rat ZP3 (accession no. Y10823), predicted primary amino acid structure and determined the cellular origin of this molecule within the ovary. Rat ZP3 was found to have an open reading frame of 1272 nucleotides encoding a polypeptide chain of 424 amino acids that was expressed exclusively by the actively growing oocyte population. Rat ZP3 exhibited 91%, 78% and 66% identity with the mouse, hamster and human homologues, respectively. Key features of mouse ZP3, including the number and location of cysteine and proline residues and N-linked glycosylation sites, were also conserved in the rat homologue. The putative O-linked glycosylation sites, a series of serine residues at ZP3329–334, were also conserved in rat and mouse ZP3, although immediately downstream of this site the amino acid sequences deviated over a short stretch of amino acids. The hydropathicity profile revealed two hydrophobic domains. The first was associated with a putative N-terminal signal sequence which is unusual in the rat in possessing a proline residue at the -1 position relative to the signal cleavage site, a feature it shares with human and marmoset ZP3 but not mouse. The second hydrophobic domain was observed at the C-terminus downstream of a TGF-β type III receptor domain that appears to be common to all ZP3 sequences examined to date.