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In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, TBF1, an essential gene, influences telomere function but also has other roles in the global regulation of transcription. We have identified a new member of the tbf1 gene family in the mammalian pathogen Pneumocystis carinii. We demonstrate by transspecies complementation that its ectopic expression can provide the essential functions of Schizosaccharomyces pombe tbf1 but that there is no rescue between fission and budding yeast orthologues. Our findings indicate that an essential function of this family of proteins has diverged in the budding and fission yeasts and suggest that effects on telomere length or structure are not the primary cause of inviability in S. pombe tbf1 null strains.