Phosphate homeostasis was studied in a monocotyledonous model plant through the characterization of the PHO1 gene family in rice (Oryza sativa). Bioinformatics and phylogenetic analysis showed that the rice genome has three PHO1 homologs, which cluster with the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) AtPHO1 and AtPHO1;H1, the only two genes known to be involved in root-to-shoot transfer of phosphate. In contrast to the Arabidopsis PHO1 gene family, all three rice PHO1 genes have a cis-natural antisense transcript located at the 5 ' end of the genes. Strand-specific quantitative reverse transcription-PCR analyses revealed distinct patterns of expression for sense and antisense transcripts for all three genes, both at the level of tissue expression and in response to nutrient stress. The most abundantly expressed gene was OsPHO1;2 in the roots, for both sense and antisense transcripts. However, while the OsPHO1;2 sense transcript was relatively stable under various nutrient deficiencies, the antisense transcript was highly induced by inorganic phosphate (Pi) deficiency. Characterization of Ospho1;1 and Ospho1;2 insertion mutants revealed that only Ospho1;2 mutants had defects in Pi homeostasis, namely strong reduction in Pi transfer from root to shoot, which was accompanied by low-shoot and high-root Pi. Our data identify OsPHO1;2 as playing a key role in the transfer of Pi from roots to shoots in rice, and indicate that this gene could be regulated by its cis-natural antisense transcripts. Furthermore, phylogenetic analysis of PHO1 homologs in monocotyledons and dicotyledons revealed the emergence of a distinct clade of PHO1 genes in dicotyledons, which include members having roles other than long-distance Pi transport.