A cDNA clone encoding a Brassica napus drought-induced 22 kDa (BnD22) protein has been isolated and characterized. The BnD22 transcript accumulated in response to drought reversibly, and to other conditions of leaf water deficit such as rapid water stress or salt acclimation, but not to cold acclimation or heat shock. Exogenously applied abscisic acid induced both changes in leaf morphology similar to the drought-adaptive response and a pronounced accumulation of the BnD22 mRNA. In control and drought-adapted plants, the BnD22 transcript was expressed in an organ-specific manner: the mRNA level was highest in leaves, low in hypocotyls and undetectable in roots. Sequence analysis indicates that the BnD22 protein is related to the Künitz family of protease inhibitors. In contrast to most members of this family, and also to most polypeptides expressed in vegetative tissues upon drought, the BnD22 mRNA was absent in seeds, before or during the seed desiccation phase. The BnD22 gene represents a new class of genes which are strictly induced in vegetative tissues upon environmental stress, and its pattern of expression shows that the responses to water deficit differ, at least partially, in seeds and in leaves.