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SEC53, a gene that is required for completion of assembly of proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum in yeast, has been cloned, sequenced, and the product localized by cell fractionation. Complementation of a sec53 mutation is achieved with unique plasmids from genomic or cDNA expression banks. These inserts contain the authentic gene, a cloned copy of which integrates at the sec53 locus. An open reading frame in the insert predicts a 29-kD protein with no significant hydrophobic character. This prediction is confirmed by detection of a 28-kD protein overproduced in cells that carry SEC53 on a multicopy plasmid. To follow Sec53p more directly, a LacZ-SEC53 gene fusion has been constructed which allows the isolation of a hybrid protein for use in production of antibody. With such an antibody, quantitative immune decoration has shown that the sec53-6 mutation decreases the level of Sec53p at 37 degrees C, while levels comparable to wild-type are seen at 24 degrees C. An eightfold overproduction of Sec53p accompanies transformation of cells with a multicopy plasmid containing SEC53. Cell fractionation, performed with conditions that preserve the lumenal content of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), shows Sec53p highly enriched in the cytosol fraction. We suggest that Sec53p acts indirectly to facilitate assembly in the ER, possibly by interacting with a stable ER component, or by providing a small molecule, other than an oligosaccharide precursor, necessary for the assembly event.