The protein serine/threonine phosphatase 4 (PP4), which localises to centrosomes/spindle pole bodies in human cells, is shown to exhibit a similar localisation in Drosophila cells and embryos and possess a highly conserved (91% identical) amino acid sequence from humans to invertebrates. A homozygous Drosophila melanogaster strain mutant in the PP4 gene at 19C1-2 has been produced using P element mutagenesis. This strain, termed centrosomes minus microtubules (cmm), has reduced amounts of PP4 mRNA, approximately 25% of normal PP4 protein in early embryos and exhibits a semi-lethal phenotype with only 10% viability in certain conditions. Reversion mutagenesis shows that the phenotype is due to the presence of the P element in the PP4 mRNA. In early cmm embryos, nuclear divisions become asynchronous and large regions containing centrosomes with no well defined radiating microtubules are visible. In such areas, most nuclei arrest during mitosis with condensed DNA, and mitotic spindle microtubules are either absent, or aberrant and unconnected to the centrosome. A reduction in the staining of gamma-tubulin at centrosomes in cmm embryos suggests a conformational change or relocation of this protein, which is known to be essential for initiation of microtubule growth. These findings indicate that PP4 is required for nucleation, growth and/or stabilisation of microtubules at centrosomes/spindle pole bodies.