Exogenous jasmonate treatment of Nicotiana attenuata Torr. ex Wats. plants elicits durable resistance against herbivores and attack from its specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta, results in an amplification of the transient wound-induced increase in endogenous jasmonic acid levels (JA). To understand whether this "JA burst" is under transcriptional control, we cloned allene oxide synthase (AOS; EC 184.108.40.206), the enzyme that catalyzes the dehydration of 13(S)-hydroperoxy octadecatrienoic acid to an allene oxide, the first specific reaction in JA biosynthesis. An AOS cDNA coding for a 520 aa protein (58.6 kDa) with an isoelectric point of 8.74 was overexpressed in bacteria and determined to be a functional AOS. Southern blot analysis indicated the presence of more than one gene and AOS transcripts were detected in all organs, with the highest levels in stems, stem leaves and flowers. Attack by M. sexta larvae resulted in a sustained JA burst producing an endogenous JA amount 9-fold above control levels and 3-fold above maximum wound-induced levels, a response which could be mimicked by the addition of Manduca oral secretion and regurgitant to puncture wounds. M. sexta attack, wounding and regurgitant treatment transiently increased AOS transcript in the wounded leaf, but increases were not proportional to the JA response. Moreover, transcript accumulation lagged behind JA accumulation. Systemic wound-induced increases in AOS transcript, AOS activity or JA accumulation could not be detected. We conclude that increase in AOS transcript does not contribute to the initial increase in endogenous JA, but may contribute to sustaining the JA burst.