Nicotianamine (NA) is an intermediate in the biosynthetic pathway of the mugineic acid family phytosiderophores (MAs), which are crucial components of the iron acquisition apparatus of graminaceous plants. In non-graminaceous plants, NA is thought to be an essential chelator for metal cation homeostasis. Thus NA plays a key role in Fe metabolism and homeostasis in all higher plants. Nicotianamine synthase (NAS, EC 18.104.22.168) catalyzes the trimerization of S-adenosylmethionine to form one molecule of NA. Barley, a plant that is resistant to Fe deficiency, secretes large amounts of MAs, whereas rice, a plant that is susceptible to Fe deficiency, secretes only small amounts. In this study we isolated a genomic fragment containing HvNAS1 from barley and three rice cDNA clones, osnas1, osnas2 and osnas3, from Fe-deficient rice roots. We also isolated a genomic fragment containing both OsNAS1 and OsNAS2. In contrast to barley, in which Fe deficiency induces the expression of NAS genes only in roots, Fe deficiency in rice induced NAS gene expression in both roots and chlorotic leaves. The amounts of endogenous NA in both the roots and leaves were higher than in barley. We introduced barley genomic DNA fragments containing HvNAS1 with either 9 or 2 kb of the 5'-flanking region into rice, using Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Fe deficiency induced HvNAS1 expression in both roots and leaves of the transgenic rice, as occurs with rice NAS genes. Barley and rice NAS genes are compared in a discussion of alteration of the NAS genes during adaptation to Fe deficiency.