The sac1 mutant of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is aberrant in most of the normal responses to sulfur limitation; it cannot synthesize arylsulfatase, does not take up sulfate as rapidly as wild-type cells, and does not synthesize periplasmic proteins that normally accumulate during sulfur-limited growth. Here, we show that the sac1 mutant dies much more rapidly than wild-type cells during sulfur deprivation; this emphasizes the vital role of the acclimation process. The loss of viability of the sac1 mutant during sulfur deprivation is only observed in the light and is mostly inhibited by DCMU. During sulfur-stress, wild-type cells, but not the sac1 mutant, downregulate photosynthesis. Thus, death of the sac1 mutant during sulfur deprivation is probably a consequence of its inability to downregulate photosynthesis. Furthermore, since SAC1 is necessary for the downregulation of photosynthesis, the process must be highly controlled and not simply the result of a general decrease in protein synthesis due to sulfur limitation. Genomic and cDNA copies of the SAC1 gene have been cloned. The deduced amino acid sequence of Sac1 is similar to an Escherichia coli gene that may involved in the response of E.coli to nutrient deprivation.