Mutations at a locus on chromosome II of D. melanogaster suppressing position-effect variegation mutations have been identified which display recessive butyrate sensitivity. Survival of homozygous mutant flies is significantly reduced on medium containing sodium n-butyrate. The butyrate sensitive suppressor mutations are further characterized by recessive female sterility and reduced survival of homozygotes. Complementation analysis showed their allelism. The locus of these mutations, Su-var (2) 1, has been localized to 40.5 +/- 0.2 and, by using interstitial duplications, to region 31CD on the cytogenetic map. Moreover, the mutant alleles of the Su-var (2) 1 locus display a lethal interaction with the heterochromatic Y chromosome. The presence or absence of a Y chromosome in males or females has a strong influence on the viability of homozygous or transheterozygous suppressor flies. All the genetic properties of Su-var (2) 1 mutants suggest strongly that this locus affects chromosome condensation.