Heterotrimeric GTP-binding proteins, composed of alpha, beta, and gamma subunits, are involved in signal transduction pathways in animal and plant systems. In plants, physiological analyses implicate heterotrimeric G-proteins in ion channel regulation, light signaling, and hormone and pathogen responses. However, only one class of plant G alpha genes has been identified to date. We have cloned a novel gene, 'Arabidopsis thaliana extra-large GTP-binding protein' (AtXLG1). AtXLG1 appears to be a member of a small gene family and is transcribed in all tissues assayed: roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. The conceptually translated protein from AtXLG1 is 99 kDa, twice as large as typical G alpha proteins. The carboxy-terminal half of the AtXLG1 protein has significant homology to animal and plant G alpha proteins. This region includes a GTP-binding domain, a predicted helical domain, and an aspartate/glutamate-rich loop, which are characteristics of G alpha's. Despite the absence of some of the amino acids implicated in GTP binding and hydrolysis by crystallographic and mutational analyses of mammalian G alpha's, recombinant AtXLG1 binds GTP with specificity. The amino-terminal region of AtXLG1 contains domains homologous to the bacterial TonB-box, which is involved in energy transduction between the inner and outer bacterial membranes, and to zinc-finger proteins. Given the unique structure of AtXLG1, it will be of interest to uncover its physiological functions.