Covalent attachment of ubiquitin to other intracellular proteins is essential for many physiological processes in eukaryotes, including selective protein degradation. Selection of proteins for ubiquitin conjugation is accomplished, in part, by a group of enzymes designated E2s or ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (UBCs). At least six types of E2s have been identified in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana; each type is encoded by a small gene family. Previously, we described the isolation and characterization of two three-member gene families, designated AtUBC1-3 and AtUBC4-6, encoding two of these E2 types. Here, we investigated the expression patterns, of the AtUBC1-3 and AtUBC4-6 genes by the histochemical analysis of transgenic Arabidopsis containing the corresponding promoters fused to the beta-glucuronidase-coding region. Staining patterns showed that these genes are active in many stages of development and some aspects of cell death, but are not induced by heat stress. Within the two gene families, individual members exhibited both overlapping and complementary expression patterns, indicating that at least one member of each gene family is expressed in most cell types and at most developmental stages. Different composite patterns of expression were observed between the AtUBC1-3 and AtUBC4-6 families, suggesting distinct biochemical and/or physiological functions for the encoded E2s in Arabidopsis.