A cDNA clone for 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolase (EC 18.104.22.168) was isolated from a lambda gt11 cDNA library constructed from the poly(A)+ RNA of etiolated pumpkin cotyledons. The cDNA insert contained 1682 nucleotides and encoded 461 amino acid residues. A study of the expression in vitro of the cDNA and analysis of the amino-terminal sequence of the protein indicated that pumpkin thiolase is synthesized as a precursor which has a cleavable amino-terminal presequence of 33 amino acids. The amino-terminal presequence was highly homologous to typical amino-terminal signals that target proteins to microbodies. Immunoblot analysis showed that the amount of thiolase increased markedly during germination but decreased dramatically during the light-inducible transition of microbodies from glyoxysomes to leaf peroxisomes. By contrast, the amount of mRNA increased temporarily during the early stage of germination. In senescing cotyledons, the levels of the thiolase mRNA and protein increased again with the reverse transition of microbodies from leaf peroxisomes to glyoxysomes, but the pattern of accumulation of the protein was slightly different from that of malate synthase. These results indicate that expression of the thiolase is regulated in a similar manner to that of other glyoxysomal enzymes, such as malate synthase and citrate synthase, during seed germination and post-germination growth. By contrast, during senescence, expression of the thiolase is regulated in a different manner from that of other glyoxysomal enzymes.