The turnover of RNAs encoded by seven different barley chloroplast genes was analyzed after treatment of barley shoots with tagetitoxin, a selective inhibitor of chloroplast transcription. Changes in RNA stability were examined during chloroplast development using basal and apical leaf sections of 4.5-day-old dark-grown seedlings and apical leaf sections of 4.0-day-old dark-grown seedlings which had been illuminated for 12 h. Of the RNAs examined, a 2.6 kb unspliced precursor of tRNA(lys) exhibited the shortest half-life, which was estimated to be 3 h. The 16S rRNA and psbA mRNA had the longest estimated half-lives, which were greater than 40 h. Among mRNAs, half-lives were estimated to range from 6 h for psaA mRNA, to over 40 h for psbA mRNA. Therefore, barley chloroplast mRNAs have long half-lives relative to bacterial mRNAs. The stability of atpB mRNA and the unspliced precursor of tRNA-lys was not altered during chloroplast development, while the stability of psaA mRNA decreased 2-fold. In contrast, the stability of the 16S rRNA and mRNAs for rpoA, psbA and rbcL increased during chloroplast development. The stability of 16S rRNA increased markedly during chloroplast development in the dark and this increase was maintained in illuminated seedlings. The stability of rbcL mRNA increased 2.5-fold during chloroplast development in the dark, and then decreased 2-fold in chloroplasts of light-grown plants. The initial increase in rpoA and psbA mRNA stability was also light-independent, with total increases in stability of at least 5-fold. In the case of rpoA, the stability of 2 of the 13 polycistronic rpoA transcripts that were detected in dark-grown plants was selectively increased during chloroplast development. In conclusion, the stability of some transcripts is selectively increased and further modulated during chloroplast development in barley. We propose that the selective stabilization of chloroplast mRNA, which occurred independent of light, is an indication that non-light regulated developmental signals are involved in barley chloroplast mRNA stability.