Fusion of the egg and the sperm cells in plants produces a zygote that develops into an embryo. Screening of ethyl methanesulfonate-mutagenized populations of Arabidopsis led to the identification of EMBRYONIC FACTOR 1 (FAC1), a locus that gives a zygote-lethal phenotype when mutated. The FAC1 gene was identified by positional cloning and confirmed by a genetic complementation test against a T-DNA insertion allele. It encodes an AMP deaminase (AMPD) that is known in human and yeast to convert AMP to IMP to maintain the energy potential. Expression of FAC1 in a yeast AMPD mutant after removal of its N-terminal putative transmembrane domain complemented the mutant phenotype, suggesting a functional conservancy but a structural divergence through evolution. Although a low level of FAC1 expression was observed in all organs tested, using a reporter construct we observed a significantly increased FAC1 expression in the zygote, early embryo and endosperm. Furthermore, during somatic embryogenesis, a high level of FAC1 expression was observed in developing embryos including putative embryogenic cells. FAC1, therefore, represents one of the earliest expressed genes known in plants. It may act through AMP depletion to provide sufficient energy for the zygote to proceed through development.