The cloning and molecular characterization of the GCS1 gene from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae show that stationary phase is in fact a unique developmental state, with requirements to resume cell proliferation that can be distinct from those for maintenance of proliferation. Deletion of the GCS1 gene products a novel phenotype: stationary-phase mutant cells do not resume proliferation at a restrictive temperature of 15 degrees C, but mutant cells lacking Gcs1p that are proliferating at the permissive temperature of 29 degrees C continue to proliferate after transfer to 15 degrees C as long as nutrients are available. The GCS1 gene sequence predicts a 39 kDa polypeptide with a novel 'Zn-finger' motif. A point mutation within the finger motif produces a phenotype that mimics that of deletion of the GCS1 gene, showing that the finger motif is essential for full Gcs1p activity. Gcs1p and the products of two newly identified genes, SPS18 and GLO3, constitute a family of novel Zn-finger proteins.