We have determined the DNA sequence of a cloned cDNA that is complementary to the mRNA for the 50 kilodalton (kd) human epidermal keratin. This provides the first amino acid sequence for a cytoskeletal keratin. Comparison of this sequence with those of other keratins reveals an evolutionary relationship between the cytoskeletal and the microfibrillar keratins, but shows no homology to matrix or feather keratins. The 50 kd keratin shares 28%-30% homology with partial sequences of other intermediate filament proteins, which suggests that keratins may be the most distantly related members of this class of fibrous proteins. Our computer analyses predict that the 50 kd keratin contains two long alpha-helical domains separated by a cluster of helix-inhibitory residues in the middle of the protein. These findings indicate that despite major sequence divergence among intermediate filament proteins, they retain sequences compatible with secondary structural features that appear to be common to all of them.