A mutant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae deleted for the COQ3 gene was constructed. COQ3 encodes a 3,4-dihydroxy-5-hexaprenylbenzoate (DHHB) methyltransferase that catalyses the fourth step in the biosynthesis of ubiquinone from p-hydroxybenzoic acid. A full length cDNA encoding a homologue of DHHB-methyltransferase was cloned from an Arabidopsis thaliana cDNA library by functional complementation of a yeast coq3 deletion mutant. The Arabidopsis thaliana cDNA (AtCOQ3) was able to restore the respiration ability and ubiquinone synthesis of the mutant. The product of the 1372 bp cDNA contained 322 amino acids and had a molecular mass of 35 360 Da. The predicted amino acid sequence contained all consensus regions for S-adenosyl methionine methyltransferases and presented 26% identity with Saccharomyces cerevisiae DHHB-methyltransferase and 38% identity with the rat protein, as well as with a bacterial (Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium) methyltransferase encoded by the UBIG gene. Southern analysis showed that the Arabidopsis thaliana enzyme was encoded by a single nuclear gene. The NH2-terminal part of the cDNA product contained features consistent with a putative mitochondrial transit sequence. The cDNA in Escherichia coli was overexpressed and antibodies were raised against the recombinant protein. Western blot analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana and pea protein extracts indicated that the AtCOQ3 gene product is localized within mitochondrial membranes. This result suggests that at least this step of ubiquinone synthesis takes place in mitochondria.