ACT11 represents a unique and ancient actin subclass in the complex Arabidopsis actin gene family. We have isolated and characterized the Arabidopsis ACT11 actin gene and examined its expression. Southern blotting with a 5' gene-specific probe showed that ACT11 was a single-copy gene in the genome. Northern analysis with a 3' gene-specific probe and reverse transcriptase-mediated PCR (RT-PCR) using gene-specific primers detected ACT11 mRNA at low levels in seedling, root, leaf, and silique tissue; at moderate levels in the inflorescence stem and flower; and at very high levels in pollen. The 5' region of the ACT11 gene, including the promoter region, the 5'-untranslated leader, the intron within the leader, and the first 19 actin codons, was fused to a beta-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene. The expression of the ACT11/GUS fusion was examined histochemically in numerous independent transgenic Arabidopsis plants. Strong ACT11/GUS activity was detected in rapidly elongating tissues and organs (e.g., etiolated hypocotyls, expanding leaves, stems) and in floral organ primordia. As the floral buds developed into mature flowers, strong GUS activity was gradually restricted to mature pollen and developing ovules. ACT11 appears to be the only Arabidopsis actin gene expressed at significant levels in ovule, embryo, and endosperm. The unique expression patterns in reproductive organs and the sequence divergence of the ACT11 actin gene suggest that the ACT11 isovariant plays distinct and required roles during Arabidopsis development.