We have isolated and characterized the cDNA clone ScYC26a from the ascidian Styela clava based on its relationship to the non-coding yellow crescent (YC) RNA. The ScYC26a mRNA has a long 5' non-coding sequence that is complementary to YC RNA. The deduced amino acid sequence indicates that ScYC26a encodes the ribosomal protein L5. The ScYC26a mRNA is probably encoded by a single copy gene, which shares genomic DNA restriction fragments with the gene encoding YC RNA, suggesting that the ScYC26a and YC genes are closely linked in the S. clava genome. Northern blot hybridization showed that S. clava eggs and embryos contain maternal ScYC26a mRNA and that zygotic ScYC26a transcripts do not accumulate until after metamorphosis. In situ hybridization showed that maternal ScYC26a mRNA is localized in the myoplasm and is segregated primarily to the muscle cell lineages during embryogenesis. The interaction of YC and ScYC26a transcripts may be involved in translational control or localization of L5 mRNA in the myoplasm.