Mitochondrial biogenesis is dependent on both nuclearly and mitochondrially encoded proteins. Study of the nuclearly encoded mitochondrial gene products and their effect on mitochondrial genome expression is essential to understanding mitochondrial function. Mutations in the nuclear gene CBP1 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae result in degradation of mitochondrially encoded cytochrome b (cob) RNA; thus, the cells are unable to respire. Putative roles for the CBP1 protein include processing of precursor RNA to yield the mature 5' end of cob mRNA and/or physical protection of the mRNA from degradation by nucleases. To examine the activity of CBP1, we generated temperature-sensitive cbp1 mutant strains by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) mutagenesis and in vivo recombination. These temperature-sensitive cbp1 strains lack cob mRNA only at the nonpermissive temperature. Quantitative primer extension analyses of RNA from these strains and from a cbp1 deletion strain demonstrated that CBP1 is required for the stability of precursor RNAs in addition to production of the stable mature mRNA. Thus, CBP1 is not involved solely in the protection of mature cob mRNA from nucleases. Moreover, we found that mature mRNAs are undetectable while precursor RNAs are reduced only slightly at the nonpermissive temperature. Collectively, these data lead us to favor a hypothesis whereby CBP1 protects cob precursor RNAs and promotes the processing event that generates the mature 5' end of the mRNA.