Unlike the majority of flowering plants, which possess hermaphrodite flowers, white campion (Silene latifolia) is dioecious and has flowers of two different sexes. The sex is determined by the combination of heteromorphic sex chromosomes: XX in females and XY in males. The Y chromosome of S.latifolia was microdissected to generate a Y-specific probe which was used to screen a young male flower cDNA library. We identified five genes which represent the first active genes to be cloned from a plant Y chromosome. Here we report a detailed analysis of one of these genes, SlY1 (S.latifolia Y-gene 1). SlY1 is expressed predominantly in male flowers. A closely related gene, SlX1, is predicted to be located on the X chromosome and is strongly expressed in both male and female flowers. SlY1 and SlX1 encode almost identical proteins containing WD repeats. Immunolocalization experiments showed that these proteins are localized in the nucleus, and that they are most abundant in cells that are actively dividing or beginning to differentiate. Interestingly, they do not accumulate in arrested sexual organs and represent potential targets for sex determination genes. These genes will permit investigation of the origin and evolution of sex chromosomes in plants.