We have identified a class of spinach plastid tRNA genes which do not require 5' upstream promoter elements for their expression in a chloroplast transcription system. The 5' DNA sequences flanking the trnR1 and trnS1 coding regions have little or no homology to previously characterized chloroplast promoter sequences. The deletion of the 5' DNA sequences from these genes to positions close to the start of the coding regions has little effect on their transcription in vitro. In addition, a synthetic DNA fragment homologous to the 5' region of trnS1 does not support the transcription of the promoter (-) trnM2 mutant 51 in a promoter/trnM2-51 fusion assay. In a dicistronic construct the wild type trnS1 gene does not support transcription of trnS1 transcription occurs immediately following the 3' end of the coding region. Both trnS1 and trnR1 compete with trnM2 for the same chloroplast RNA polymerase and/or common transcription factors.