Two genes encoding a particular H3 histone variant were isolated from Arabidopsis thaliana. These genes differ from the H3 genes previously cloned from Arabidopsis and other plants by several interesting properties: (1) the two genes are located close to each other; (2) their coding regions are interrupted by two or three small introns, the two closest to the initiation codon being located at the same place in the two genes; (3) another, long intron is located in the 5'-untranslated region just before the initiation codon of gene I as deduced from the sequence of several corresponding cDNAs, and very likely also of gene II; (4) these genes do not show preferential expression in organs containing meristematic tissues contrary to the classical intronless replication-dependent histone genes, thus suggesting that their expression is not replication-dependent; (5) the protein encoded by both genes is the same and corresponds to a minor H3 variant highly conserved among all the plant species studied up to now. All these characteristics are common with the animal replication-independent H3.3 histone genes and it is assumed that the genes described here are the first example of the equivalent H3.3 gene family in plants. Interestingly, the promoter regions of the two genes have the same general structure as the Arabidopsis intronless genes. Possible implications on the regulation of H3 genes expression are discussed.