The KNOTTED class of plant genes encodes homeodomain proteins. These genes have been found in all plant species where they have been sought and, where examined, show expression patterns that suggest they play an important role in shoot meristem function. Until now, all mutant phenotypes associated with these genes have been due to gain-of-function mutations, making it difficult to deduce their wild-type function. Here we present evidence that the Arabidopsis SHOOT-MERISTEMLESS (STM) gene, required for shoot apical meristem formation during embryogenesis, encodes a class I KNOTTED-like protein. We also describe the expression pattern of this gene in the wild-type plant. To our knowledge, STM is the first gene shown to mark a specific pattern element in the developing plant embryo both phenotypically and molecularly.