We have characterized four overlapping genomic clones containing the DA rat TCR C beta complex, which span a total of 23 kb and bear two closely related complexes of gene segments. The D beta 1-J beta 1-C beta 1 and the D beta 2-J beta 2-C beta 2 complexes each contain a single diversity segment, six joining segments and four exons that encode the C region. All gene segments appear to be functional except J beta 2.5, which has a 5-bp frame-shifting deletion. This organizational pattern is identical to that of the mouse, and the homologous rat and mouse coding regions share about 92% nucleotide sequence identity. Our sequence comparisons indicate that a localized gene correction event has homogenized the sequences of the first exons of C beta 1 and C beta 2 in the evolutionary time since rats and mice became separate species. We have identified three repetitive elements, each flanked by short direct repeats, present in the region "brain-specific" identifier (ID) sequences, another is a truncated member of the LINE I class of repetitive elements, and the third is a member of the Alu type 2 family. The insertion of at least two, and probably all, of these elements has occurred since the time of rat/mouse divergence. We have identified a substantial number of "cryptic" rearrangement signals (heptamer/nonamer) in the C beta locus, which match the consensus sequence as well or better than authentic signals, and may represent sites of nonfunctional rearrangements.