Transcripts from five cell cycle related genes accumulate in isolated cells dispersed throughout the actively dividing regions of plant meristems. We propose that this pattern reflects gene expression during particular phases of the cell division cycle. The high proportion of isolated cells suggests that synchrony between daughter cells is rapidly lost following mitosis. This is the first time that such a cell specific expression pattern has been described in a higher organism. Counterstaining with a DNA specific dye revealed that transcripts from three genes (two mitotic cyclins and a cdc2-like gene) accumulate during part of interphase and early mitosis whereas transcripts from a histone H4 gene are preferentially detected only in interphase cells. Double labelling for cyclin and histone H4 transcripts confirms that these genes are expressed in different cells, and therefore at different phases of the cell cycle. The results suggest that transcriptional regulation of cell cycle related genes may be important in controlling cell division in plants, and that these genes are useful markers for identifying cells at specific phases of the cell cycle within plant meristems.