Mannose-binding proteins (MBPs), members of the collectin family, have been implicated as lectin opsonins for various viruses and bacteria. Two distinct but related MBPs, MBP-A and MBP-C, with approximately 55% identity at the amino acid level, have been previously characterized from rodents. In humans, however, only one form of MBP has been characterized. In this paper we report studies elucidating the evolution of primate MBPs. ELISA and Western blot analyses indicated that rhesus and cynomolgus monkeys have two forms of MBP in their sera, while chimpanzees have only one form, similar to humans. Two distinct MBP cDNA clones were isolated and characterized from a rhesus monkey liver cDNA library. Rhesus MBP-A is closely related to the mouse and rat MBP-A, showing 77% and 75% identity at the amino acid level, respectively. Rhesus MBP-A also has three cysteines at the N-terminus, similar to mouse and rat MBP-A and human MBP. Rhesus MBP-C shares 90% identity with the human MBP at the amino acid level and has three cysteines at the N-terminus, in contrast to two cysteine residues found in rodent MBP-C. A stretch of nine amino acids close to the N-terminus, absent in both mouse and rat MBP-A, but present in rodent MBP-C, chicken and human MBPs, is also found in the rhesus MBP-A. The phylogenetic analysis of rhesus and other mammalian MBPs, coupled with the serological data suggest that at least two distinct MBP genes existed prior to mammalian radiation and the hominoid ancestor apparently lost one of these genes or failed to express it.