Mutations which allowed conjugation by Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells lacking a mating pheromone receptor gene were selected. One of the genes defined by such mutations was isolated from a yeast genomic library by complementation of a temperature-sensitive mutation and is identical to the gene GPA1 (also known as SCG1), recently shown to be highly homologous to genes encoding the alpha subunits of mammalian G proteins. Physiological analysis of temperature-sensitive gpa1 mutations suggests that the encoded G protein is involved in signaling in response to mating pheromones. Mutational disruption of G-protein activity causes cell-cycle arrest in G1, deposition of mating-specific cell surface agglutinins, and induction of pheromone-specific mRNAs, all of which are responses to pheromone in wild-type cells. In addition, mutants can conjugate without the benefit of mating pheromone or pheromone receptor. A model is presented where the activated G protein has a negative impact on a constitutive signal which normally keeps the pheromone response repressed.