We characterized two genes, FUS1 and FUS2, which are required for fusion of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells during conjugation. Mutations in these genes lead to an interruption of the mating process at a point just before cytoplasmic fusion; the partition dividing the mating pair remains undissolved several hours after the cells have initially formed a stable "prezygote." Fusion is only moderately impaired when the two parents together harbor one or two mutant fus genes, and it is severely compromised only when three or all four fus genes are inactivated. Cloning of FUS1 and FUS2 revealed that they share some functional homology; FUS1 on a high-copy number plasmid can partially suppress a fus2 mutant, and vice versa. FUS1 remains essentially unexpressed in vegetative cells, but is strongly induced by incubation of haploid cells with the appropriate mating pheromone. Immunofluorescence microscopy of alpha factor-induced a cells harboring a fus1-LACZ fusion showed the fusion protein to be localized at the cell surface, concentrated at one end of the cell (the shmoo tip). FUS1 maps near HIS4, and the intervening region (including BIK1, a gene required for nuclear fusion) was sequenced along with FUS1. The sequence of FUS1 revealed the presence of three copies of a hexamer (TGAAAC) conserved in the 5' noncoding regions of other pheromone-inducible genes. The deduced FUS1 protein sequence exhibits a striking concentration of serines and threonines at the amino terminus (46%; 33 of 71), followed by a 25-amino acid hydrophobic stretch and a predominantly hydrophilic carboxy terminus, which contains several potential N-glycosylation sites (Asn-X-Ser/Thr). This sequence suggests that FUS1 encodes a membrane-anchored glycoprotein with both N- and O-linked sugars.