Maize produces separate unisexual flowers through programmed abortion of preformed organ primordia. In the male inflorescence (tassel), stamen primordia develop to sexual maturity, while gynoecia (pistil primordia) are aborted. In tasselseed2 (ts2) mutant plants, floral structures in the tassel adopt a female developmental program. Here we report the transposon tagging and cloning of the TS2 gene, which plays a late but pivotal role in determining the sexual fate of floral meristems. Shortly before abortion of the gynoecium, Ts2 mRNA is expressed subepidermally in that primordium. Phenotypic instability of the Activator (Ac)-induced allele ts2-m1 indicates that late restoration of TS2 action in somatic tissues, which is correlated with Ac excision, reactivates the male developmental program. The predicted amino acid sequence of the Ts2 protein shows significant similarity to short-chain alcohol dehydrogenases, particularly hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases.