In higher plants, male reproductive (pollen) development is known to be disrupted in a class of mitochondrial mutants termed cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) mutants. Despite the increase in knowledge regarding CMS-encoding genes and their expression, definitive evidence that CMS-associated proteins actually cause pollen disruption is not yet available in most cases. Here we compare the translation products of mitochondria between the normal fertile cytoplasm and the male-sterile I-12CMS(3) cytoplasm derived from wild beets. The results show a unique 12 kDa polypeptide that is present in the I-12CMS(3) mitochondria but is not detectable among the translation products of normal mitochondria. We also found that a mitochondrial open reading frame (named orf129) was uniquely transcribed in I-12CMS(3) and is large enough to encode the novel 12 kDa polypeptide. Antibodies against a GST–ORF129 fusion protein were raised to establish that this 12 kDa polypeptide is the product of orf129. ORF129 was shown to accumulate in flower mitochondria as well as in root and leaf mitochondria. As for the CMS-associated protein (PCF protein) in petunia, ORF129 is primarily present in the matrix and is loosely associated with the inner mitochondrial membrane. The orf129 sequence was fused to a mitochondrial targeting pre-sequence, placed under the control of the Arabidopsis apetala3 promoter, and introduced into the tobacco nuclear genome. Transgenic expression of ORF129 resulted in male sterility, which provides clear supporting evidence that ORF129 is responsible for the male-sterile phenotype in sugar beet with wild beet cytoplasm.