Three cDNA clones encoding proteins containing a myb-related DNA binding domain have been isolated from a cDNA library prepared from protonemal tissue of the moss, Physcomitrella patens. The three cDNA clones between them encode two different classes of myb-like proteins, termed Pp1 and Pp2, that, outside of the myb domain, show no regions of significant homology. Acidic domains, capable of forming alpha-helical structures, are present in the carboxy-termini of the derived amino acid sequences from Pp1 and Pp2cDNAs suggesting that, like other myb genes, these proteins probably function as transcriptional activators. In contrast to other plants, where extensive myb-related gene families are present in the genome, a relatively small family is present in P. patens. Analyses of transcript levels during development of P. patens showed that maximum levels of transcription of the two genes occurred in young wild-type protonemal tissue that correlated with the time of maximum mitotic index. A decline in the expression of both genes occurs with increasing age of the wild-type tissue. Aberrant levels of expression of the two genes were observed in developmental mutants of P. patens which, as well as carrying specific morphological mutations, have greatly retarded protonemal growth rates. Transformation of wild-type P. patens with antisense constructs derived from Pp1 and Pp2 cDNA clones led to a dramatically reduced frequency of transformants when the expression of the reporter gene within the constructs was selected. Taken together, the data strongly suggest that expression of Pp1 and Pp2 is essential for cell growth during normal gametophytic development of P. patens.