The CHS5 locus of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is important for wild-type levels of chitin synthase III activity. chs5 cells have reduced levels of this activity. To further understand the role of CHS5 in yeast, the CHS5 gene was cloned by complementation of the Calcofluor resistance phenotype of a chs5 mutant. Transformation of the mutant with a plasmid carrying CHS5 restored Calcofluor sensitivity, wild-type cell wall chitin levels, and chitin synthase III activity levels. DNA sequence analysis reveals that CHS5 encodes a unique polypeptide of 671 amino acids with a molecular mass of 73,642 Da. The predicted sequence shows a heptapeptide repeated 10 times, a carboxy-terminal lysine-rich tail, and some similarity to neurofilament proteins. The effects of deletion of CHS5 indicate that it is not essential for yeast cell growth; however, it is important for mating. Deletion of CHS3, the presumptive structural gene for chitin synthase III activity, results in a modest decrease in mating efficiency, whereas chs5delta cells exhibit a much stronger mating defect. However, chs5 cells produce more chitin than chs3 mutants, indicating that CHS5 plays a role in other processes besides chitin synthesis. Analysis of mating mixtures of chs5 cells reveals that cells agglutinate and make contact but fail to undergo cell fusion. The chs5 mating defect can be partially rescued by FUS1 and/or FUS2, two genes which have been implicated previously in cell fusion, but not by FUS3. In addition, mating efficiency is much lower in fus1 fus2 x chs5 than in fus1 fus2 x wild type crosses. Our results indicate that Chs5p plays an important role in the cell fusion step of mating.