In homozygous rolling stone embryos, the fusion of myoblasts to syncytial myotubes is diminished. Nevertheless, the visceral mesoderm, the heart mesoderm, and few somatic muscles are properly formed. Thus, we postulate a central role of rolling stone for the fusion process within the somatic mesoderm. We have cloned the rolling stone gene, and the deduced protein sequence is in accordance with a transmembrane protein, which agrees with the enrichment of Rost in the membrane fraction of Drosophila embryos. No homologous genes have been described so far. rolling stone is expressed in the embryonic nervous system and cells of the somatic mesoderm, most notable in muscle founder cells. To elucidate the function of rolling stone for myoblast fusion, we applied a knock-out strategy. The expression of an antisense rolling stone transcript specifically within the mesoderm of wild-type embryos results in fusion defects of myoblasts, proving that the rolling stone expression in the mesoderm is responsible for the rolling stone phenotype. We suggest that rolling stone is a member of a group of genes that are necessary for the fusion process during myogenesis.