Male sterile plants appeared in the progeny of three fertile plants obtained after one cycle of protoplast culture from a fertile botanical line and two androgenetic lines of Nicotiana sylvestris. These plants showed the same foliar and floral abnormalities as the cytoplasmic male sterile (cms) mitochondrial variants obtained after two cycles of culture. We show that male sterility in these plants is controlled by three independent nuclear genes, ms1, ms2 and ms3, while no changes can be seen in the mitochondrial genome. However, differences were found between the in organello mitochondrial protein synthesis patterns of male sterile and parent plants. Two reproducible changes were observed: the presence of a new 20 kDa polypeptide and the absence of a 40 kDa one. Such variations were described previously in mitochondrial protein synthesis patterns of the cms lines. Fertile hybrids of male sterile plants showed normal synthesis patterns. The male sterile plants are thus mutated in nuclear genes involved in changes observed in mitochondrial protein synthesis patterns.