Acetylation is the most frequently occurring chemical modification of the alpha-NH2 group of eucaryotic proteins and is catalyzed by N alpha-acetyltransferase. The yeast enzyme is encoded by the AAA1 (amino-terminal alpha-amino acetyltransferase) gene. A null mutation (aaa1-1) created by gene replacement, while not lethal, slows cell growth and results in heterogeneous colony morphology. In comparison with wild-type cells, aaa1-1/aaa1-1 diploids cannot enter stationary phase, are sporulation defective, and are sensitive to heat shock. In addition, the aaa1-1 mutation specifically reduces mating functions of MATa cells. These results indicate that N alpha acetylation plays a crucial role in yeast cell growth and mating.