Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain V918 was previously isolated in a search for thermosensitive autolytic mutants and found to bear a recessive mutation that caused the development of multinucleate swollen cells undergoing cell lysis. The BEM2 gene has been isolated by complementation of the phenotype of a V918 segregant. BEM2 encodes a Rho-GTPase-activating protein (GAP) which is thought to act as a modulator of the Rho1 small GTPase. It is shown that the mutation causing the morphogenetic and autolytic phenotype in strain V918 and its segregants lies in the BEM2 gene, defining a new mutant allele, bem2-21. Mutants in the BEM2 gene have been reported to display loss of cell polarity and depolarization of the actin cytoskeleton, causing a bud-emergence defect. Low resistance to sonication and to hydrolytic enzymes proved that the cell wall is less protective in bem2-21 mutants than in wild-type strains. Moreover, bem2-21 mutants are more sensitive than the wild-type to several antifungal drugs. Transmission electron microscopy revealed the development of abnormally thick and wide septa and the existence of thin areas in the cell wall which probably account for cell lysis. The depolarization of actin in bem2-21 mutants did not preclude morphogenetic events such as cell elongation in homozygous diploid strains during nitrogen starvation in solid media, hyperpolarization of growth in a background bearing a mutated septin, or sporulation. Multinucleate cells from bem2-21 homozygous diploids underwent sporulation giving rise to multispored asci ('polyads'), containing up to 36 spores. This phenomenon occurred only under osmotically stabilized conditions, suggesting that the integrity of the ascus wall is impaired in cells expressing the bem2-21 mutation. It is concluded that the function of the BEM2 gene product is essential for the maintenance of a functional cell wall.