We have identified a novel gene referred to as activation-induced deaminase (AID) by subtraction of cDNAs derived from switch-induced and uninduced murine B lymphoma CH12F3-2 cells, more than 80% of which switch exclusively to IgA upon stimulation. The amino acid sequence encoded by AID cDNA is homologous to that of apolipoprotein B (apoB) mRNA-editing enzyme, catalytic polypeptide 1 (APOBEC-1), a type of cytidine deaminase that constitutes a catalytic subunit for the apoB mRNA-editing complex. In vitro experiments using a glutathione S-transferase AID fusion protein revealed significant cytidine deaminase activity that is blocked by tetrahydrouridine and by zinc chelation. However, AID alone did neither demonstrate activity in C to U editing of apoB mRNA nor bind to AU-rich RNA targets. AID mRNA expression is induced in splenic B cells that were activated in vitro or by immunizations with sheep red blood cells. In situ hybridization of immunized spleen sections revealed the restricted expression of AID mRNA in developing germinal centers in which modulation of immunoglobulin gene information through somatic hypermutation and class switch recombination takes place. Taken together, these findings suggest that AID is a new member of the RNA- editing deaminase family and may play a role in genetic events in the germinal center B cell.