The shibire locus of Drosophila melanogaster encodes dynamin, a GTPase required for the fission of endocytic vesicles from plasma membrane. Biochemical studies indicate that mammalian dynamin is part of a complex containing multiple dynamin subunits and other polypeptides. To gain insight into sequences of dynamin critical for its function, we have characterized in detail a collection of conditional and lethal shi alleles. We describe a probable null allele of shi and show that its properties are distinct from those of two classes of lethal alleles (termed I and II) that show intergroup, interallelic complementation. Sequenced class I alleles, which display dominant properties, carry missense mutations in conserved residues in the GTPase domain of dynamin. In contrast, the sequenced class II alleles, which appear completely recessive, carry missense mutations in conserved residues of a previously uncharacterized "middle domain" that lies adjacent to the GTPase region. These data suggest that critical interactions mediated by this middle domain are severely affected by the class II lethal mutations; thus, the mutant sequences should be very useful for confirming the in vivo relevance of interactions observed in vitro. Viable heteroallelic combinations of shi lethals show rapid and reversible temperature-sensitive paralytic phenotypes hitherto only described for the ts alleles of shi. When taken together with the molecular analysis of shi mutations, these observations suggest that the GTPase domain of dynamin carries an intrinsically temperature-sensitive activity: hypomorphic mutations that reduce this activity at low temperatures result in conditional temperature-sensitive phenotype. These observations explain why screens for conditional paralytic mutants in Drosophila inevitably recover ts alleles of shi at high frequencies.