Protein-L-isoaspartate (D-aspartate) O-methyltransferases (EC 184.108.40.206) that catalyze the transfer of methyl groups from S-adenosylmethionine to abnormal L-isoaspartyl and D-aspartyl residues in a variety of peptides and proteins are widely distributed in procaryotes and eucaryotes. These enzymes participate in the repair of spontaneous protein damage by facilitating the conversion of L-isoaspartyl and D-aspartyl residues to normal L-aspartyl residues. In this work, we have identified an L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase activity in Arabidopsis thaliana, a dicotyledonous plant of the mustard family. The highest levels of activity were detected in seeds. Using degenerate oligonucleotides corresponding to two highly conserved amino acid regions shared among the Escherichia coli, wheat, and human enzymes, we isolated and sequenced a full-length genomic clone encoding the A. thaliana methyltransferase. Several methyltransferase cDNAs were also characterized, including ones that would encode full-length polypeptides of 230 amino acid residues. Messenger RNAs for the A. thaliana enzyme were found in a variety of tissues that did not contain significant amounts of active enzyme suggesting the possibility of translational or posttranslational controls on methyltransferase levels. We have identified a putative abscisic acid-response element (ABRE) in the 5'-untranslated region of the A. thaliana L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase gene and have shown that the expression of the mRNA is responsive to exogenous abscisic acid (ABA), but not to the environmental stresses of salt or drought. The expression of the A. thaliana enzyme appears to be regulated in a distinct fashion from that seen in wheat or in animal tissues.