A full-size cDNA clone (1614 bp) encoding calreticulin was isolated from a PCR-based cDNA library of maize in vitro zygotes. Calreticulin is a major Ca2+ storage protein located mainly in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum but also in the nucleus and/or cytoplasm of some cells. A differential screening between cDNA libraries originating from 104 in vitro zygotes (18 h after in vitro fertilization) and 128 unfertilized egg cells was performed to isolate newly expressed genes or genes expressed more abundantly after fertilization. The expression of the isolated cDNA clone is enhanced after fertilization and strongly correlated to cell division. Sequence comparison to a shorter maize calreticulin cDNA isolated from a PCR based cDNA library construction from a few plant cells . It is further shown that calreticulins in maize are probably transcribed from a small gene family differentially expressed in abundance in diverse tissues. The deduced amino acid sequence encodes an acidic protein (pI 4.17) of 48 kDa sharing 77-92% and 50-54% homology to other plant and animal calreticulins, respectively. The described calreticulin gene represents to our knowledge the first cDNA clone isolated from a RT/PCR cDNA library originating from only a few plant cells and is the first gene isolated from zygotes of higher plants.