Posttranscriptional gene silencing is a defense mechanism in plants that is similar to quelling in fungi and RNA interference in animals. Here, we describe four genetic loci that are required for posttranscriptional gene silencing in Arabidopsis. One of these, SDE1, is a plant homolog of QDE-1 in Neurospora crassa that encodes an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. The sde1 mutation was specific for posttranscriptional gene silencing induced by transgenes rather than by viruses. We propose that the role of SDE1 is to synthesize a double-stranded RNA initiator of posttranscriptional gene silencing. According to this idea, when a virus induces posttranscriptional gene silencing, the virus-encoded RNA polymerase would produce the double-stranded RNA and SDE1 would be redundant.