The two gene clusters rps3-rpl16 and nad3-rps12 are separated from each other in the mitochondrial genome and are expressed as the individual transcription units in many plants. In rice mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the four genes rps3, rpl16, nad3 and rps12 are located within a region of 6 kbp. Northern-blot analysis revealed that a large transcript (6.6 kb) hybridized to both the rps3-rpl16 and the nad3-rps12 gene clusters. Using RT-PCR, we amplified a fragment of anticipated size (790 bp) from two primers that corresponded to sequences in the coding regions of rpl16 and nad3, demonstrating that at least two of the four genes, namely rpl16 and nad3, were co-transcribed. These results together indicated that all four genes, namely, rps3, rpl16, nad3 and rps12, were co-transcribed in rice mitochondria. Transcription initiation sites were determined by an in vitro capping/ribonuclease protection assay and primer extension analysis. Two initiation sites were identified in the rps3-rpl16-nad3-rps12 gene cluster: one was located upstream of rps3 and the other was located between rpl16 and nad3. This evidence indicates that the rps3-rpl16-nad3-rps12 gene cluster is transcribed from two alternative promoters.