During fertilization in Chlamydomonas, gametes of opposite mating types interact with each other through sex-specific adhesion molecules on their flagellar surfaces. Flagellar adhesion brings the cell bodies of the gametes into close contact and initiates a signal transduction pathway in preparation for cell-cell fusion. We have identified a cDNA, gsp1, whose transcript levels are upregulated during flagellar adhesion. The GSP1 polypeptide is a novel, gamete-specific homeodomain protein, the first to be identified in an alga. Its homeodomain shows significant identity with several higher plant homeodomain proteins. Although encoded by a single copy gene present in cells of both mating types, immunoblot analysis showed that GSP1 was expressed in mating type (mt)+ gametes, but was not detectable in mt- gametes or in vegetative cells of either mating type. Moreover, GSP1 appeared late during gametogenesis, suggesting that it may function during adhesion with mt- gametes or after zygote formation. GSP1 is expressed in imp11, mt- mutant gametes, which have a lesion in the mid gene involved in sex determination and exhibit many phenotypic characteristics of mt+ gametes. Thus, gsp1 is negatively regulated by mid and is the first molecule to be identified in Chlamydomonas that shows sex-limited expression.