Carbonic anhydrases (CAs) are Zn-containing metalloenzymes that catalyse the reversible hydration of CO(2). We investigated the alphaCA and betaCA families in Arabidopsis, which contain eight alphaCA (At alphaCA1-8) and six betaCA genes (At betaCA1-6). Analyses of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) database indicate that all the betaCA encoding sequences, but only three of the At alphaCA, are expressed. Using semi-quantitative PCR experiments, functional CA genes were more strongly expressed in green tissue, but strong expression was also found in roots for betaCA3, betaCA6 and alphaCA2. Two alphaCA genes were shown to respond to the CO(2) environment, while the others were unresponsive. Using the green fluorescent reporter protein gene fused with cDNA sequences coding for betaCAs, we provided evidence that betaCAs were targeted to specific subcellular compartments: betaCA1 and betaCA5 were targeted to the chloroplast, betaCA2 and betaCA3 to the cytosol, betaCA4 to the plasma membrane and betaCA6 to the mitochondria. The targeting and the pattern of gene expression suggest that CA isoforms play specific roles in subcellular compartments, tissues and organs. The data indicate that other CA isoforms than the well-characterized betaCA1 may contribute to the CO(2) transfer in the cell to the catalytic site of ribulose 1.5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco).