As an adjunct to the genomic sequencing of Caenorhabditis elegans, we have investigated a representative cDNA library of 1,517 clones. A single sequence read has been obtained from the 5' end of each clone, allowing its characterization with respect to the public databases, and the clones are being localized on the genome map. The result is the identification of about 1,200 of the estimated 15,000 genes of C. elegans. More than 30% of the inferred protein sequences have significant similarity to existing sequences in the databases, providing a route towards in vivo analysis of known genes in the nematode. These clones also provide material for assessing the accuracy of predicted exons and splicing patterns and will lead to a more accurate estimate of the total number of genes in the organism than has hitherto been available.