The expression of the various members of the zein multigene family in maize endosperm is controlled by different regulatory loci. One of these loci, Opaque-2, coding for a bZIP transcriptional factor, controls the expression of a subset of zein genes. Analysis of genomic DNA from plants carrying wild-type (O2) or mutant o2 alleles shows specific DNA restriction patterns that correlate with transcript types and their various gene products. Northern and western analyses show the presence in different wild types of a 1.7 kb transcript coding for different sizes of normal O2 proteins that migrate as doublets in the 68-72 kDa range. Among the various o2 mutants analysed we showed the occurrence of various null-transcript alleles, the presence of alleles with a normal size transcript which, however, produce a different-sized o2 protein, and a mutant producing both a normal size transcript and a longer transcript, but generating only a single o2 product migrating around 40 kDa. Analysis of other mutations (o7, fl2) known to affect zein polypeptide synthesis shows no interference of these mutations in the expression of the O2 gene products. The overall results indicate the occurrence of micro heterogeneity in the O2 wild-type genes and a broad spectrum of o2 mutations, both producing different sizes of O2 or o2 proteins. A nomenclature of the O2 and o2 genes based on the RFLP, transcripts and products of the various alleles is presented.