The cotton (+)-delta-cadinene synthase, a sesquiterpene cyclase, is encoded by a complex gene family which, based on homology, can be divided into two subfamilies: cad1-A and cad1-C. Southern blots revealed several members of the cad1-C subfamily, and a single member of the cad1-A subfamily, in the diploid Gossypium arboreum genome. One of the cad1-C genes, cad1-C3, was isolated from this species. According to reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, transcripts of both cad1-C and cad1-A genes appeared in roots from the second day post germination and in 1-d-old cotyledons, whereas the transcription levels were too low to be detected in the hypocotyls. Initially, sesquiterpene cyclase activities were found to be high in the seedlings, then dropped in aerial organs but increased in roots during development. Sesquiterpene aldehyde contents followed the same pattern. In fully developed plants, the transcripts of cad1-C were detected in stems, leaves and pericarps, as well as in the sepals and petals 3 d before anthesis, but not at the day of anthesis. In contrast, cad1-A transcripts were not detected in any of these aerial organs. The sesquiterpene aldehyde contents increased in petals but decreased in sepals after anthesis. Treatment of G. arboreum stems with a Verticillium dahliae elicitor-preparation activated cad1-A transcription, but a significant level of cad1-C transcripts was detected both before and after elicitation. In G. hirsutum cv. GL-5, a glandless cultivar, the cad1-C gene was activated by the same fungal elicitor, followed by the synthesis of the sesquiterpene cyclase, and accumulation of sesquiterpene aldehydes. The cad1 gene expression during development and in response to elicitation, as well as the spatial and temporal pattern of sesquiterpene biosynthesis, constitute a chemical defense machinery in cotton plants.