We report evidence from cDNA isolation and expression analysis as well as analyses of genome, expressed sequence tag (EST), cDNA and expression databases for a new gene named SPRN (shadow of prion protein). SPRN comprises two exons, with the open reading frame (ORF) contained within exon 2, and codes for a protein of 130-150 amino acids named Shadoo (Japanese shadow), predicted to be extracellular and GPI-anchored. The SPRN gene was found in fish (zebrafish, Fugu) and mammals (mouse, rat, human). Conservation of order and transcription orientation of two proximal genes between fishes and mammals strongly indicates gene orthology. Sequence comparison shows: a highly conserved N-terminal signal sequence; Arg-rich basic region containing up to six tetrarepeats of consensus XXRG (where X is G, A or S); a hydrophobic region of 20 residues with strong homology to PrP; a less conserved C-terminal domain containing a conserved glycosylation motif; and a C-terminal peptide predicted to be a signal sequence for glycophosphotidylinositol (GPI)-anchor attachment. Fish Shadoos (Sho) show well conserved sequences (identity 54%) over 106 amino acids (zebrafish length), and conservation among the mammalian sequences is very high (identity 81-96%). The fish and mammalian sequences are also well conserved, particularly for zebrafish, to beyond the end of the hydrophobic sequence (identity 41-53%, 78 amino acids, zebrafish length). The overall structure appears closely related to prion proteins (PrPs), although the C-terminal domains of Shos are quite different from those of PrPs, for which conformational changes in mammals are implicated in disease. The structural similarity is particularly interesting given recent reports of three new genes with similarities to PrPs found in Fugu (PrP-like, PrP-461/stPrP-1 and stPrP-2) and other fish, but for which direct evolution to higher vertebrate PrPs is unlikely and for which no other mammalian homologues have been found. Database information indicates expression of SPRN in embryo, brain and retina of mouse and rat, hippocampus of human, and in embryo and retina of zebrafish, and we directly confirmed a strikingly specific expression of the mammalian (human, mouse, rat) transcripts in whole brain. This result together with some common structural features led to the suggestive hypothesis of a possible functional link between mammalian PrP and Sho proteins.