A key regulated step in abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis in plants is catalyzed by 9-cis epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase (NCED), which cleaves 9-cis xanthophylls to xanthoxin, a precursor of ABA. In Arabidopsis, ABA biosynthesis is controlled by a small family of NCED genes. Nine carotenoid cleavage dioxygenase (CCD) genes have been identified in the complete genome sequence. Of these, five AtNCEDs (2, 3, 5, 6, and 9) have been cloned and studied for expression and subcellular localization. Although all five AtNCEDs are targeted to plastids, they differ in binding activity of the thylakoid membrane. AtNCED2, AtNCED3, and AtNCED6 are found in both stroma and thylakoid membrane-bound compartments. AtNCED5 is exclusively bound to thylakoids, whereas AtNCED9 remains soluble in stroma. A quantitative real-time PCR analysis and histochemical staining of promoter::GUS activity in transgenic Arabidopsis revealed a complex pattern of localized NCED expression in well-watered plants during development. AtNCED2 and AtNCED3 account for the NCED activity in roots, with localized expression in root tips, pericycle, and cortex cells at the base of lateral roots. Localized AtNCED2 and AtNCED3 expression in pericycle cells is an early marker of lateral initiation sites. AtNCED5, AtNCED6, AtNCED3, and AtNCED2 are expressed in flowers with very high AtNCED6::GUS activity occurring in pollen. AtNCED5::GUS, and to lesser degrees, AtNCED2::GUS and AtNCED3::GUS are expressed in developing anthers. AtNCED5, AtNCED6, AtNCED9, and AtNCED3 contribute to expression in developing seeds with high levels of AtNCED6 present at an early stage. GUS analysis indicates that AtNCED3 expression is confined to the base of the seed, whereas AtNCED5 and AtNCED6 are expressed throughout the seed. Consistent with the studies conducted by Iuchi and his colleagues in 2001, AtNCED3 is the major stress-induced NCED in leaves. Our results indicate that developmental control of ABA synthesis involves localized patterns of AtNCED gene expression. In addition, differential membrane-binding capacity of AtNCEDs is a potential means of post-translational regulation of NCED activity.