Few Arabidopsis mutants defective in early male or female germline development have been reported. A novel extinction screen has been devised which permits the identification of mutants deficient in the earliest stages of anther development. Using mutagenized plants carrying GUS reporter constructs driven by tapetal-specific promoters originally derived from Brassica genes, a wide spectrum of mutants have been identified in Arabidopsis, ranging from those defective in archesporial cell differentiation to others expressed later in development. Crosses between these lines and known anther development mutants have enabled the identification of lines carrying mutations in genes expressed during very early anther formation. Initial characterization reveals these early mutants fall into two classes, gne (GUS-negative) 1-like, and gne2-like. Members of the gne1 mutant class initiate all four layers of the anther wall and an appropriate number of sporogenous cells; however, as development proceeds the tapetal and middle-layer cells enlarge, eventually crushing the sporogenous cells. The gne2 class anthers are disrupted at an earlier stage, with the middle and tapetal layers failing to form, and an excess of sporogenous cells developing until the germline aborts late in meiosis II. Analysis of these mutants has already raised questions about the accuracy of current models of angiosperm anther development.