We have examined phytochrome effects on the abundance of transcripts from several nuclear and chloroplast genes in buds of dark-grown pea seedlings and primary leaves of dark-grown mung-bean seedlings. Probes for nuclear-coded RNAs were selected from a library of cDNA clones and included those corresponding to the small subunit (SS) of ribulosebisphosphate carboxylase and a chlorophyll a/b binding protein (AB). Transcripts from chloroplast genes for RuBP carboxylase large subunit (LS) and a 32,000-dalton photosystem II polypeptide (PII) were assayed with cloned fragments of the chloroplast genome. In addition, we present data on transcripts from a number of other nuclear genes of unknown function, several of which change in abundance during light-induced development. Transcript levels were measured as a proportion of total RNA by a dot blot assay in which RNA from different tissues or stages is fixed to nitrocellulose and hybridized with (32)P-labeled probes prepared from cloned DNAs. Several patterns of induction can be seen. For example, although both SS and AB RNAs show positive, red/far-red reversible responses in both pea and mung bean, in pea buds the induction ratio for SS RNA is much higher than that for AB RNA, while just the reverse is true for mung-bean leaves. In addition, treatment with lowfluence red light produces full induction of the pea AB RNA, while SS RNA in the same tissue does not reach a maximum steady-state level until after about 24 h of supplementary high-intensity white light. In pea buds, chloroplast genes (LS, PII) also show clear responses to phytochrome, as measured by the steady-state levels of their RNA products. Chloroplast DNA levels (as a fraction of the total cellular DNA) show the same response pattern, which may indicate that in peas many of the light effects we see are related to a general stimulation of chloroplast development. In mung beans, the levels of plastid DNA and RNA are already quite high in the leaves of 7-d dark-grown seedlings, and light effects are much less pronounced. The results are consistent with the notion that chloroplast development is arrested at a later stage in dark-grown mung-bean leaves than in etiolated pea buds.