The Swi2/Snf2-related protein Rad54 is a chromatin remodeling enzyme that is important for homologous strand pairing catalyzed by the eukaryotic recombinase Rad51. The chromatin remodeling and DNA-stimulated ATPase activities of Rad54 are significantly enhanced by Rad51. To investigate the functions of Rad54, we generated and analyzed a series of mutant Rad54 proteins. Notably, the deletion of an N-terminal motif (amino acid residues 2-9), which is identical in Rad54 in Drosophila, mice, and humans, results in a complete loss of chromatin remodeling and strand pairing activities, and partial inhibition of the ATPase activity. In contrast, this conserved N-terminal motif has no apparent effect on the ability of DNA to stimulate the ATPase activity or of Rad51 to enhance the DNA-stimulated ATPase activity. Unexpectedly, as the N terminus of Rad54 is progressively truncated, the mutant proteins regain partial chromatin remodeling activity as well as essentially complete DNA-stimulated ATPase activity, both of which are no longer responsive to Rad51. These findings suggest that the N-terminal region of Rad54 contains an autoinhibitory activity that is relieved by Rad51.