Expression of genes for respiratory chain dehydrogenases was investigated in potato (Solanum tuberosum L. cv. Desiree) leaves. The recently characterized nda1 and ndb1 genes, homologues to genes encoding the non-proton pumping respiratory chain NADH-dehydrogenases of Escherichia coli and yeast, were compared to genes encoding catalytic subunits of the proton-pumping NADH dehydrogenase (complex I). As leaves develop from young to mature, the nda1 transcript level increases, accompanied by an elevation in immunodetected NDA protein and internal rotenone-insensitive NADH oxidation. The other investigated transcripts, proteins and NAD(P)H oxidation activities were essentially unchanged. A variation in transcript level, specific for nda1, is seen at different times of the day with highest expression in the morning. This variation also influences the apparent developmental induction. Further, the nda1 mRNA in leaves specifically and completely disappears during dark treatment, with a rapid re-induction when plants are returned to light. Corresponding immunodetected NDA protein is specifically decreased in mitochondria isolated from dark-treated plants, accompanied by a lower capacity for internal rotenone-insensitive NADH oxidation. Complete light dependence and diurnal changes in expression have previously not been reported for genes encoding respiratory chain proteins. Qualitatively similar to NDA, the alternative oxidase showed developmental induction and light dependence. In addition to the specific change in nda1, a general, slower down-regulation in darkness was seen for the other NAD(P)H dehydrogenase genes. The nda1 expression during development, and in response to light, indicates a specific role of the encoded enzyme in the photosynthetically associated mitochondrial metabolism.