In higher eukaryotes, nine aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases are associated within a multienzyme complex which is composed of 11 polypeptides with molecular masses ranging from 18 to 150 kDa. We have cloned and sequenced a cDNA from Drosophila encoding the largest polypeptide of this complex. We demonstrate here that the corresponding protein is a multifunctional aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase. It is composed of three major domains, two of them specifying distinct synthetase activities. The amino and carboxy-terminal domains were expressed separately in Escherichia coli, and were found to catalyse the aminoacylation of glutamic acid and proline tRNA species, respectively. The central domain is made of six 46 amino acid repeats. In prokaryotes, these two aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases are encoded by distinct genes. The emergence of a multifunctional synthetase by a gene fusion event seems to be a specific, but general attribute of all higher eukaryotic cells. This type of structural organization, in relation to the occurrence of multisynthetase complexes, could be a mechanism to integrate several catalytic domains within the same particle. The involvement of the internal repeats in mediating complex assembly is discussed.