Reactive amyloidosis occurs during chronic inflammation and involves deposition of amyloid A (AA) fibrils in many organs. Amyloid A is derived by proteolysis from serum amyloid A component (SAA), a major acute-phase reactant in many species. Since spontaneous amyloidosis occurs commonly in Syrian hamsters, we have studied the structure and expression of SAA genes during inflammation in these animals. Two cDNA clones and one genomic clone were sequenced, suggesting that Syrian hamster SAA is encoded by at least two genes. Hepatic mRNA analyses showed that SAA was inducible in many hamster organs during acute inflammation. These studies also demonstrated that SAA mRNA for one isotype is maximally expressed at a site of local tissue damage.