lin-4 is essential for the normal temporal control of diverse postembryonic developmental events in C. elegans. lin-4 acts by negatively regulating the level of LIN-14 protein, creating a temporal decrease in LIN-14 protein starting in the first larval stage (L1). We have cloned the C. elegans lin-4 locus by chromosomal walking and transformation rescue. We used the C. elegans clone to isolate the gene from three other Caenorhabditis species; all four Caenorhabditis clones functionally rescue the lin-4 null allele of C. elegans. Comparison of the lin-4 genomic sequence from these four species and site-directed mutagenesis of potential open reading frames indicated that lin-4 does not encode a protein. Two small lin-4 transcripts of approximately 22 and 61 nt were identified in C. elegans and found to contain sequences complementary to a repeated sequence element in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of lin-14 mRNA, suggesting that lin-4 regulates lin-14 translation via an antisense RNA-RNA interaction.