An allelic series of the novel argonaute mutant (ago1-1 to ago1-6) of the herbaceous plant Arabidopsis thaliana has been isolated. The ago1 mutation pleotropically affects general plant architecture. The apical shoot meristem generates rosette leaves and a single stem, but axillary meristems rarely develop. Rosette leaves lack a leaf blade but still show adaxial/abaxial differentiation. Instead of cauline leaves, filamentous structures without adaxial/abaxial differentiation develop along the stem and an abnormal inflorescence bearing infertile flowers with filamentous organs is produced. Two independent T-DNA insertions into the AGO1 locus led to the isolation of two corresponding genomic sequences as well as a complete cDNA. The AGO1 locus was mapped close to the marker mi291a on chromosome 1. Antisense expression of the cDNA resulted in a partial mutant phenotype. Sense expression caused some transgenic lines to develop goblet-like leaves and petals. The cDNA encodes a putative 115 kDa protein with sequence similarity to translation products of a novel gene family present in nematodes as well as humans. No specific function has been assigned to these genes. Similar proteins are not encoded by the genomes of yeast or bacteria, suggesting that AGO1 belongs to a novel class of genes with a function specific to multicellular organisms.