Introduction of a constitutive antisense full-length chalcone synthase (CHS) cDNA gene in petunia can result in an inhibition of flower pigmentation. We have evaluated some of the factors which may be important for the effectiveness of an antisense CHS gene. Antisense CHS genes encoding half-length or quarter-length RNA complementary to the 3' half of CHS mRNA are able to affect flower pigmentation, while a gene encoding RNA complementary to the 5' half of CHS mRNA did not show phenotypic effects in transgenic petunia plants. We demonstrate that the RNA encoded by the latter gene has a much lower average steady-state level in leaf tissue than the RNAs encoded by the other antisense gene constructs. We have compared the CaMV 35S and endogenous CHS promoter strengths and intrinsic stabilities of sense and antisense CHS RNAs. From the data we conclude that the constitutive antisense CHS genes are not likely to provide an excess of antisense RNA compared to the CHS mRNA derived from the endogenous genes. Effective inhibition of flower pigmentation is also observed when the antisense CHS gene is under control of the homologous CHS promoter. The results indicate that the mechanism of antisense inhibition cannot solely operate via RNA duplex formation between sense and antisense RNA.