The unique capability of rice (Oryza sativa L.) seedlings to grow under anoxic conditions may result in part from their ability to express alpha-amylase and maintain the supply of sugar needed for energy metabolism. Previous studies have demonstrated that under aerobic conditions the Amy1 and Amy2 subfamily genes are regulated primarily by phytohormones while the Amy3 subfamily genes are induced during sugar starvation. The expression patterns for these alpha-amylase genes were considerably different in anoxic vs. aerobic rice seedlings. The level of total alpha-amylase mRNA under anoxic conditions was decreased in aleurone layers while it increased in the embryo. Anoxic conditions greatly diminished the expression of the Amy1A gene in aleurone. Conversely, expression of many Amy3 subfamily genes was up-regulated and prolonged in embryo tissues under anoxic conditions.