Here we show that emb-30 is required for metaphase-to-anaphase transitions during meiosis and mitosis in Caenorhabditis elegans. Germline- specific emb-30 mutant alleles block the meiotic divisions. Mutant oocytes, fertilized by wild-type sperm, set up a meiotic spindle but do not progress to anaphase I. As a result, polar bodies are not produced, pronuclei fail to form, and cytokinesis does not occur. Severe-reduction-of-function emb-30 alleles (class I alleles) result in zygotic sterility and lead to germline and somatic defects that are consistent with an essential role in promoting the metaphase-to-anaphase transition during mitosis. Analysis of the vulval cell lineages in these emb-30(class I) mutant animals suggests that mitosis is lengthened and eventually arrested when maternally contributed emb-30 becomes limiting. By further reducing maternal emb-30 function contributed to class I mutant animals, we show that emb-30 is required for the metaphase-to- anaphase transition in many, if not all, cells. Metaphase arrest in emb-30 mutants is not due to activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint but rather reflects an essential emb-30 requirement for M-phase progression. A reduction in emb-30 activity can suppress the lethality and sterility caused by a null mutation in mdf-1, a component of the spindle assembly checkpoint machinery. This result suggests that delaying anaphase onset can bypass the spindle checkpoint requirement for normal development. Positional cloning established that emb-30 encodes the likely C. elegans orthologue of APC4/Lid1, a component of the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome, required for the metaphase-to-anaphase transition. Thus, the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome is likely to be required for all metaphase-to-anaphase transitions in a multicellular organism.