The gene CYC2 from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae was previously shown to affect levels of mitochondrial cytochrome c by acting at a posttranslational step in cytochrome c biosynthesis. We report here the cloning and identification of the CYC2 gene product as a protein involved in import of cytochrome c into mitochondria. CYC2 encodes a 168-amino-acid open reading frame with at least two potential transmembrane segments. Antibodies against a synthetic peptide corresponding to the carboxyl terminus of the predicted sequence were raised. These antibodies recognize multiple bands on immunoblots of mitochondrial extracts. The intensities of these bands vary according to the gene dosage of CYC2 in various isogenic strains. Immunoblotting of subcellular fractions suggests that the CYC2 gene product is a mitochondrial protein. Deletion of CYC2 leads to accumulation of apocytochrome c in the cytoplasm. However, strains with deletions of this gene still import low levels of cytochrome c into mitochondria. The effects of cyc2 mutations are more pronounced in rho- strains than in rho+ strains, even though rho- strains that are CYC2+ contain normal levels of holocytochrome c. cyc2 mutations affect levels of iso-1-cytochrome c more than they do levels of iso-2-cytochrome c, apparently because of the greater susceptibility of apo-iso-1-cytochrome c to degradation in the cytoplasm. We propose that CYC2 encodes a factor that increases the efficiency of cytochrome c import into mitochondria.