The covalent attachment of ubiquitin to cellular proteins is catalyzed by members of a family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes. These enzymes participate in a variety of cellular processes, including selective protein degradation, DNA repair, cell cycle control, and sporulation. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, two closely related ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, UBC4 and UBC5, have recently been shown to mediate the selective degradation of short-lived and abnormal proteins. We have now identified a third distinct member of this class of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, UBC1. UBC1, UBC4 and UBC5 are functionally overlapping and constitute an enzyme family essential for cell growth and viability. All three mediate selective protein degradation, however, UBC1 appears to function primarily in the early stages of growth after germination of spores. ubc1 mutants generated by gene disruption display only a moderate slow growth phenotype, but are markedly impaired in growth following germination. Moreover, yeast carrying the ubc1ubc4 double mutation are viable as mitotic cells, however, these cells fail to survive after undergoing sporulation and germination. This specific requirement for UBC1 after a state of quiescence suggests that degradation of certain proteins may be crucial at this transition point in the yeast life cycle.