Complementary DNAs encoding nuclear-coded mitochondrial ATP synthase subunit alpha of Drosophila melanogaster and Strongylocentrotus purpuratus were obtained by a combination of library screening and redundant PCR. The entire coding sequence of the precursor polypeptide was inferred for both species. Southern blots to genomic DNA indicated that the gene is almost certainly single-copy in both organisms. Northern blots to RNA from staged developmental series showed that ATP synthase subunit alpha mRNA is represented in the egg, declines in abundance during cleavage, and is replenished by zygotic transcription in both species. However, the extent and timing of these changes differ significantly in the two species studied. Nuclear-coded and mitochondrially encoded ATP synthase genes appear to be temporally co-regulated in Drosophila, but not sea urchin development.