Using a transposon insertion line of the Drosophila Genome Project we have cloned the black-pearl gene (blp), analyzed cDNA clones, generated various mutants, and characterized their phenotypes. The blp gene codes for a protein of 15.7 kDa calculated molecular weight that has been conserved from yeast to plants and mammals with high homology. A domain of these new proteins shows distant similarity to DnaJ domains indicating a functionally relevant interaction with other proteins. The P element insertion in line P1539 lies within the 5' untranslated leader of the black-pearl gene. Flies homozygous for this insertion are semi-lethal, escapers produce very few offspring and show melanotic inclusions in the hemocoel ('black pearls') similar to various melanotic 'tumor' mutants. Two small deletions confined to the blp gene and two EMS-induced mutations are homozygous lethal. These null mutants appear normal up to a prolonged first instar larval stage but fail to grow and die. Thus in Drosophila the blp gene is specifically required for larval growth. The evolutionary conservation in both unicellular and multicellular organisms suggests for the new protein family described here a fundamental role in cell growth.