We report the cDNA sequences of rat colipase, rat pancreatic lipase (rPL), and a rat pancreatic lipase-related protein (rPLRP). Comparison to the human PLRP cDNA suggests that the isolated clone encodes rPLRP-2. Both cDNA and a third cDNA encoding rPLRP-1 are secreted from Sf9 cells infected with recombinant baculovirus. rPL and rPLRP-2 hydrolyze triolein, 8.0 and 4.4 mumol.min-1.microgram-1, respectively. They are inhibited by bile salts, and activity is restored by (pro)colipase. PLRP-1 has barely detectable activity against triolein, even with (pro)colipase present. The pattern of mRNA expression during development in the rat reveals that all mRNA are low in the fetal rat pancreas. Both PLRP mRNA rise just before birth to a maximum 12 h after birth. They fall to low levels in the adult. In contrast, the PL mRNA is low at birth and rises rapidly during the suckling-weanling transition. In conclusion, the rat has at least three genes encoding different lipases, and these related genes have separate regulatory controls.