The multiprotein complexes involved in active dis-ruption of chromatin structure, homologous to yeast SWI/SNF complex, have been described for human and Drosophila cells. In all SWI/SNF-class complexes characterised so far, one of the key components is the SNF5-type protein. Here we describe the isolation of a plant (Arabidopsis thaliana ) cDNA encoding a 27 kDa protein which we named BSH, with high homology to yeast SNF5p and its human (INI1) and Drosophila (SNR1) counterparts as well as to other putative SNF5-type proteins from Caenorhabditis elegans, fish and yeast. With 240 amino acids, the Arabidopsis BSH is the smallest SNF5-type protein so far identified. When expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the gene for BSH partially complements the snf5 mutation. BSH is, however, unable to activate transcription in yeast when tethered to DNA. The gene for BSH occurs in single copy in the Arabidopsis genome and is ubiquitously expressed in the plant. Analysis of the whole cell and nuclear protein extracts with antibodies against recombinant BSH indicates that the protein is localised in nuclei. Transgenic Arabidopsis plants with markedly decreased physiological level of the BSH mRNA, resulting from the expression of antisense messenger, are viable but exhibit a distinctive phenotype characterised by bushy growth and flowers that are unable to produce seeds.