Summary An efficient yeast-based system was developed for the isolation of plant cDNAs encoding transcription factors (TFs) and proteins with transcription activation functions (co-activators). The system consists of two vectors: (i) a reporter vector (pG221) harboring the iso-1-cytochrome c (CYC1) core promoter and the beta-galactosidase (lacZ) gene; and (ii) a cDNA library construction vector (pYF503), which yields a library of plant peptides fused to the GAL4-binding domain (GAL4-BD). Expression of a peptide harboring the characteristics of a transcriptional activator leads to expression of lacZ, allowing for selection of relevant colonies. TFs during rice embryo development were isolated through this system. Approximately 200 confirmed positive colonies were obtained from screening 10(6) yeast colonies, and sequence analysis of conserved domains identified 75 independent cDNAs, 20 of which encoded plant TFs or co-activators, including members of the APETALA2 (AP2)/ethylene-responsive element-binding protein (EREBP), MYB and growth-regulating factor (GRF) families. Peptides encoded by 13 of the isolated cDNAs were classified as potential TFs or co-activators because of the presence of conserved TF-like domains. Additionally, 2, 11, and 13 clones encoded kinases, chromosome-related proteins, and unknown proteins, respectively, while the remaining 16 cDNAs were associated with specific functions seemingly unrelated to TFs. Expression pattern analysis of selected TF-encoding genes via RT-PCR revealed that these genes were expressed during seed development, with differential transcription observed during various stages. This work provides informative hints for further study of the regulatory mechanism of rice seed development and illustrates an identification strategy that will be of practical value for the isolation of TFs and co-activators associated with specific plant developmental processes.