We describe the molecular cloning of the human transferrin receptor gene by a gene transfer approach. Mouse Ltk- cells were cotransformed with the herpes simplex thymidine kinase gene and total human DNA. Transformants expressing human transferrin receptor were isolated by selection on hypoxanthine/aminopterin/thymidine (HAT) medium and fluorescence-activated cell sorting of HAT-resistant cells. Thirty-four kilobases of human DNA was isolated by screening a genomic library constructed from the DNA of a secondary transformant. Gene transfer of the cloned DNA established that 31 kb of DNA was sufficient to encode the receptor. A probe from the 5' end of the gene was used to isolate a cDNA clone with an insert of 4.9 kb. Hybridization of the cDNA to the cloned genomic DNA revealed a minimum of 12 exons. They extend over the entire 31 kb of expressing DNA and over 2 kb of adjacent 3' untranslated sequences that are not required for receptor expression in L cells.