The yeast mating pheromone a-factor is a farnesylated peptide [YIIKGVFWDPAC(Farnesyl)-OCH3] involved in the signal transduction cascade which leads to sexual conjugation of haploid cells. We have identified a synthetic analog of the a-factor, [D-Ala5] a-factor, which exhibits 4-6 fold greater biological activity than that of a-factor as judged by two different assay systems. In contrast, [L-Ala5] a-factor has 4-16 fold lower activity than wild-type a-factor. [D-Ala5] a-factor remains susceptible to cleavage by the yeast α-cell specific protease a-factorase, thereby ruling out increased activity due to greater stability. This report describes the first example of a hyperactive S. cerevisiae pheromone and may suggest a conformationally preferred form of this lipopeptide ligand. © 1993 Academic Press, Inc.