The first cleavage of C. elegans is asymmetric, generating daughter cells with different sizes, cytoplasmic components, and fates. Mutations in the par-1 gene disrupt this asymmetry. We report here that par-1 encodes a putative Ser/Thr kinase with similarity to kinases from yeasts and mammals. Two strong alleles have mutations in the kinase domain, suggesting that kinase activity is essential for par-1 function. PAR-1 protein is localized to the posterior periphery of the zygote and is distributed in a polar fashion preceding the asymmetric divisions of the germline lineage. Because PAR-1 distribution in the germline correlates with the distribution of germline-specific P granules, it is possible that PAR-1 functions in germline development as well as in establishing embryonic polarity.