The nucleotide sequences of two mink serum amyloid A (SAA) cDNA clones have been analyzed, one (SAA1) 776 base pairs long and the other (SAA2) 552 base pairs long. Significant differences were discovered when derived amino acid sequences were compared with data for apoSAA isolated from high density lipoprotein. Previous studies of mink protein SAA and amyloid protein A (AA) suggest that only one SAA isotype is amyloidogenic. The cDNA clone for SAA2 defines the 'amyloid prone' isotype while SAA1 is found only in serum. Mink SAA1 has alanine in position 10, isoleucine in positions 24, 67, and 71, lysine in position 27, and proline in position 105. Residue 10 in mink SAA2 is valine while arginine and asparagine are at positions 24 and 27, respectively, all characteristics of protein AA isolated from mink amyloid fibrils. Mink SAA2 also has valine in position 67, phenylalanine in position 71, and amino acid 105 is serine. It remains unknown why these six amino acid substitutions render SAA2 more amyloidogenic than SAA1. Eighteen hours after lipopolysaccharide stimulation, mink SAA mRNA is abundant in liver with relatively minor accumulations in brain and lung. Genes encoding both SAA isotypes are expressed in all three organs while no SAA mRNA was detectable in amyloid prone organs, including spleen and intestine, indicating that deposition of AA from locally synthesized SAA is unlikely. A third mRNA species (2.2 kilobases) was identified and hybridizes with cDNA probes for mink SAA1 and SAA2. In addition to a major primary translation product (molecular mass 14,400 Da) an additional product with molecular mass 28,000 Da was immunoprecipitable.