Ethylene behaves as a hormone in plants, regulating such aspects of growth and development as fruit ripening, flower senescence, and abscission. Ethylene insensitivity is conferred by dominant mutations in the ETR1 gene early in the ethylene signal transduction pathway of Arabidopsis thaliana. The ETR1 gene was cloned by the method of chromosome walking. Each of the four known etr1 mutant alleles contains a missense mutation near the amino terminus of the predicted protein. Although the sequence of the amino-terminal half of the deduced ETR1 protein appears to be novel, the carboxyl-terminal half is similar in sequence to both components of the prokaryotic family of signal transducers known as the two-component systems. Thus, an early step in ethylene signal transduction in plants may involve transfer of phosphate as in prokaryotic two-component systems. The dominant etr1-1 mutant gene conferred ethylene insensitivity to wild-type Arabidopsis plants when introduced by transformation.