Over a 24-h light-dark cycle, the level of mRNA coding for nitrate reductase (NR; EC 220.127.116.11) in the leaves of nitrate-fed Nicotiana tabacum L. plants increased throughout the night and then decreased until it was undetectable during the day. The amount of NR protein and NR activity were two-fold higher during the day than at night. When plants were transferred to continuous light conditions for 32 h, similar variations in NR gene expression, as judged by the above three parameters, still took place in leaf tissues. On the other hand, when plants were transferred to continuous dark conditions for 32 h, the NR-mRNA level continued to display the rhythmic fluctuations, while the amount of NR protein and NR activity decreased constantly, becoming very low, and showed no rhythmic variations. After 56 h of continuous darkness, the levels of NR mRNA, protein and activity in leaves all became negligible, and light reinduced them rapidly. These results indicate the circadian rhythmicity and light dependence of NR expression.