Two genes encoding enzymes in the abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis pathway, zeaxanthin epoxidase (ZEP) and 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase (NCED), have previously been cloned by transposon tagging in Nicotiana plumbaginifolia and maize respectively. We demonstrate that antisense down-regulation of the tomato gene LeZEP1 causes accumulation of zeaxanthin in leaves, suggesting that this gene also encodes ZEP. LeNCED1 is known to encode NCED from characterization of a null mutation (notabilis) in tomato. We have used LeZEP1 and LeNCED1 as probes to study gene expression in leaves and roots of whole plants given drought treatments, during light/dark cycles, and during dehydration of detached leaves. During drought stress, NCED mRNA increased in both leaves and roots, whereas ZEP mRNA increased in roots but not leaves. When detached leaves were dehydrated, NCED mRNA responded rapidly to small reductions in water content. Using a detached leaf system with ABA-deficient mutants and ABA feeding, we investigated the possibility that NCED mRNA is regulated by the end product of the pathway, ABA, but found no evidence that this is the case. We also describe strong diurnal expression patterns for both ZEP and NCED, with the two genes displaying distinctly different patterns. ZEP mRNA oscillated with a phase very similar to light-harvesting complex II (LHCII) mRNA, and oscillations continued in a 48 h dark period. NCED mRNA oscillated with a different phase and remained low during a 48 h dark period. Implications for regulation of water stress-induced ABA biosynthesis are discussed.