A polymerase chain reaction strategy was devised to identify new members of the mammalian myosin I family of actin-based motors. Using cellular RNA from mouse granular neurons and PC12 cells, we have cloned and sequenced three 1.2-kb polymerase chain reaction products that correspond to novel mammalian myosin I genes designated MMI alpha, MMI beta, MMI gamma. The pattern of expression for each of the myosin I's is unique: messages are detected in diverse tissues including the brain, lung, kidney, liver, intestine, and adrenal gland. Overlapping clones representing full-length cDNAs for MMI alpha were obtained from mouse brain. These encode a 1,079 amino acid protein containing a myosin head, a domain with five calmodulin binding sites, and a positively charged COOH-terminal tail. In situ hybridization reveals that MMI alpha is highly expressed in virtually all neurons (but not glia) in the postnatal and adult mouse brain and in neuroblasts of the cerebellar external granular layer. Expression varies in different brain regions and undergoes developmental regulation. Myosin I's are present in diverse organisms from protozoa to vertebrates. This and the expression of three novel members of this family in brain and other mammalian tissues suggests that they may participate in critical and fundamental cellular processes.