Yeast Cdc7 protein kinase and Dbf4 protein are both required for the initiation of DNA replication at the G1/S phase boundary of the mitotic cell cycle. Cdc7 kinase function is stage-specific in the cell cycle, but total Cdc7 protein levels remained unchanged. Therefore, regulation of Cdc7 function appears to be the result of posttranslational modification. In this study, we have attempted to elucidate the mechanism responsible for achieving this specific execution point of Cdc7. Cdc7 kinase activity was shown to be maximal at the G1/S boundary by using either cultures synchronized with alpha factor or Cdc- mutants or with inhibitors of DNA synthesis or mitosis. Therefore, Cdc7 kinase is regulated by a posttranslational mechanism that ensures maximal Cdc7 activity at the G1/S boundary, which is consistent with Cdc7 function in the cell cycle. This cell cycle-dependent regulation could be the result of association with the Dbf4 protein. In this study, the Dbf4 protein was shown to be required for Cdc7 kinase activity in that Cdc7 kinase activity is thermolabile in vitro when extracts prepared from a temperature-sensitive dbf4 mutant grown under permissive conditions are used. In vitro reconstitution assays, in addition to employment of the two-hybrid system for protein-protein interactions, have demonstrated that the Cdc7 and Dbf4 proteins interact both in vitro and in vivo. A suppressor mutation, bob1-1, which can bypass deletion mutations in both cdc7 and dbf4 was isolated. However, the bob1-1 mutation cannot bypass all events in G1 phase because it fails to suppress temperature-sensitive cdc4 or cdc28 mutations. This indicates that the Cdc7 and Dbf4 proteins act at a common point in the cell cycle. Therefore, because of the common point of function for the two proteins and the fact that the Dbf4 protein is essential for Cdc7 function, we propose that Dbf4 may represent a cyclin-like molecule specific for the activation of Cdc7 kinase.