Yeast replication factor C (RF-C) is a multi-polypeptide complex required for processive DNA replication by DNA polymerases delta and epsilon. The gene encoding the 40-kDa subunit of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae RF-C (RFC3) has been cloned. The RFC3 gene is required for yeast cell growth and has been mapped to the left arm of chromosome XIV. The deduced amino acid sequence of the RFC3 gene shows a high homology to the 36-, 37-, and 40-kDa subunits of human RF-C (also called activator 1), with the highest homology to the 36-kDa subunit. Among the conserved regions are the A motif of ATP binding proteins; the "DEAD box," common to DNA helicases and other ATPases; and the "RFC box," an approximately 15-amino acid domain virtually identical in the yeast and human RF-C subunits. Limited homology to the functional homologs of the Escherichia coli replication apparatus was also observed. The steady-state mRNA levels of RFC3 do not change significantly during the mitotic cell cycle of yeast. The intact form of the RFC3 gene product (Rfc3p) has been overproduced in E. coli and purified to homogeneity. Purified Rfc3p has an ATPase activity that is markedly stimulated by single-stranded DNA but not by double-stranded DNA or RNA.