The genetic basis of the regeneration process in cultured immature embryos of rye (Secale cereale L.) was analyzed. The experiments were designed to reveal differences between the in vitro culture responses of two inbred lines: L318 (a high regeneration ability) and L9 (a low potential for regeneration). The rye ortologues of plant genes previously recognized as crucial for somatic embryogenesis and morphogenesis in vitro were identified. Using oligonucleotide primers designed to conserved regions of the genes Somatic Embryogenesis Receptor-like Kinase (SERK), Leafy Cotyledon 1 (LEC1), Viviparous 1 (VP1) and NiR (encoding ferredoxin-nitrite reductase), it was possible to amplify specific homologous sequences from rye RNA by RT-PCR. The transcript levels of these genes were then measured during the in vitro culture of zygotic embryos, and the sites of expression localized. The expression profiles of these genes indicate that their function is likely to be correlated with the in vitro response of rye. In line L9, increased expression of the rye SERK ortologue was observed at most stages during the culture of immature embryos. The suppression of ScSERK expression appears to start after the induction of somatic embryogenesis and lasts up to plant regeneration. The rye ortologues of the LEC1 and VP1 genes may function in a complimentary manner and have a negative effect on the production of the embryogenic callus. The expression of the rye NiR ortologue during in vitro culture reveals its importance in the process of plant regeneration.