Little is known about DNA and RNA metabolism during leaf development and aging in the model organism Arabidopsis. Therefore we examined the nuclear and plastidial DNA content of tissue ranging in age from 2-day-old cotyledons to 37-day-old senescent rosette leaves. Flow-cytometric analysis showed an increase in nuclear DNA ploidy levels of up to 128 genome copies per nucleus in older leaves. The copy numbers of nuclear 18S-rRNA genes were determined to be 700 +/- 60 per haploid genome. Adjusted to the average level of nuclear DNA polyploidism per cell, plastome copy numbers varied from about 1000 to 1700 per cell without significant variation during development from young to old rosette leaves. The transcription activity of all studied plastid genes was significantly reduced in older rosette leaves in comparison to that in young leaves. In contrast, levels of plastidial transcript accumulation showed different patterns. In the case of psbA, transcripts accumulated to even higher levels in older leaves, indicating that differential regulation of plastidial gene expression occurs during leaf development. Examination of promoter activity from clpP and rrn16 genes by primer extension analyses revealed that two RNA polymerases (NEP and PEP) transcribe these genes in cotyledons as well as in young and senescent leaves. However, PEP may have a more prominent role in older rosette leaves than in young cotyledons. We conclude that in cotyledons or leaves of different ages plastidial gene expression is regulated at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels, but not by plastome copy number.