Stearoyl-acyl-carrier-protein (ACP) desaturase (EC 184.108.40.206) was purified to homogeneity from avocado mesocarp, and monospecific polyclonal antibodies directed against the protein were used to isolate full-length cDNA clones from Ricinus communis (castor) seed and Cucumis sativus (cucumber). The nucleotide sequence of the castor clone pRCD1 revealed an open reading frame of 1.2 kilobases encoding a 396-amino acid protein of 45 kDa. The cucumber clone pCSD1 encoded a homologous 396-amino acid protein with 88% amino acid identity to the castor clone. Expression of pRCD1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae resulted in the accumulation of a functional stearoyl-ACP desaturase, demonstrating that the introduction of this single gene product was sufficient to confer soluble desaturase activity to yeast. There was no detectable identity between the deduced amino acid sequences of the castor delta 9-stearoyl-ACP desaturase and either the delta 9-stearoyl-CoA desaturase from rat or yeast or the delta 12 desaturase from Synechocystis, suggesting that these enzymes may have evolved independently. However, there was a 48-residue region of 29% amino acid sequence identity between residues 53 and 101 of the castor desaturase and the proximal border of the dehydratase region of the fatty acid synthase from yeast. Stearoyl-ACP mRNA was present at substantially higher levels in developing seeds than in leaf and root tissue, suggesting that expression of the delta 9 desaturase is developmentally regulated.