A cDNA encoding the DNA ligase I homologue has been isolated from Arabidopsis thaliana using a degenerate PCR approach. The ORF of this cDNA encodes an amino acid sequence of 790 residues, representing a protein with a theoretical molecular mass of 87.8 kDa and an isoelectric point (pl) of 8.20. Alignment of the A. thaliana DNA ligase protein sequence with the sequence of DNA ligases from human (Homo sapiens), murine (Mus musculus), clawed toad (Xenopus laevis) and the yeasts Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Saccharomyces cerevisiae showed good sequence homology (42-45% identity, 61-66% similarity), particularly around the active site. Sequence data indicate that the Arabidopsis DNA ligase is the homologue of the animal DNA ligase I species. Functional analysis of the cDNA clone demonstrated its ability to complement the conditional lethal phenotype of an S. cerevisiae cdc9 mutant defective in DNA ligase activity, confirming that the cloned sequence encodes an active DNA ligase. The level of the DNA ligase transcript was not increased in A. thaliana seedlings in response to DNA damage induced by a period of enhanced UV-B irradiation. However, the cellular level of the DNA ligase mRNA transcript does correlate with the replicative state of plant cells.