Profilin is a small (12-15 kDa) actin- and phospholipid-binding protein previously known only from studies on animals and lower eukaryotes but recently identified as a birch pollen allergen. Here we have identified and characterized three members of the profilin multigene family from the plant Zea mays. Two cDNAs isolated from a maize pollen library (ZmPRO 1 and ZmPRO 3) each have a single, large open reading frame encoding a putative polypeptide 131 amino acids long with a predicted molecular weight of approximately 14 kDa. A third maize pollen cDNA (ZmPRO 2) has two in-frame translation initiation codons. Use of the first ATG would result in a polypeptide 137 amino acids long with a molecular weight of 14.8 kDa. The three maize profilins are highly homologous to each other (> 90% nucleotide and amino acid sequence identity) as well as other plant profilins but show far less similarity (30-40% amino acid sequence identity) to animal and lower eukaryote profilins. Multiple sequence alignments indicate that only nine residues are shared by all eukaryotic profilins examined. However, limited comparisons reveal domains in the NH2 and COOH termini that have a high degree of similarity suggesting functional conservation. The maize gene family size is estimated to contain three to six members based on Southern blot experiments with gene-specific and coding region probes. Northern blot analysis demonstrates that the three maize profilin cDNAs characterized here are utilized in a tissue-specific manner and are anther or pollen specific.