The barley cysteine proteinase B (EPB) is the main protease responsible for the degradation of endosperm storage proteins providing nitrogenous nutrients to support the growth of young seedlings. The expression of this enzyme is induced in the germinating seeds by the phytohormone, gibberellin, and suppressed by another phytohormone, abscisic acid. In situ hybridization experiments indicate that EPB is expressed in the scutellar epithelium within 24 h of seed germination, but the aleurone tissue surrounding the starchy endosperm eventually becomes the main tissue expressing this enzyme. The EPB gene family of barley consists of two very similar genes, EPB1 and EPB2, both of which have been mapped to chromosome 3. The sequences of EPB1 and EPB2 match with the two previously published cDNA clones indicating that both genes are expressed. Interestingly, neither of these genes contain any introns, a rare phenomenon in which all members of a small gene family are active intronless genes. Sequence comparison indicates that the barley EPB family can be classified as cathepsin L-like endopeptidases and is most closely related to two legume cysteine proteinases (Phaseolus vulgaris EP-C1 and Vigna mungo SHEP) which are also involved in seed storage protein degradation. The promoters of EPB1 and EPB2 have been linked to the coding sequence of a reporter gene, GUS, encoding beta-glucuronidase, and introduced into barley aleurone cells using the particle bombardment method. Transient expression studies indicate that EPB promoters are sufficient to confer the hormonal regulation of these genes.