Male-specific lethal-one (msl-1) is one of four genes that are required for dosage compensation in Drosophila males. To determine the molecular basis of msl-1 regulation of dosage compensation, we have cloned the gene and characterized its products. The predicted msl-1 protein (MSL-1) has no significant similarity to proteins in the current data bases but contains an acidic N terminus characteristic of proteins involved in transcription and chromatin modeling. We present evidence that the msl-1 protein is associated with hundreds of sites along the length of the X chromosome in male, but not in female, nuclei. Our findings support the hypothesis that msl-1 plays a direct role in increasing the level of X-linked gene transcription in male nuclei.