Plants respond to phosphate (Pi) deficiency through adaptive mechanisms involving several morphological, biochemical and molecular changes. In this study, we have characterized the structure and expression of a tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) phosphate starvation-induced gene (TPSI1). A 3.5 kb genomic fragment containing the 474 bp TPSI1 transcript was isolated. The TPSI1 transcript contains an open reading frame of 174 nucleotides encoding a 58 amino acid polypeptide. TPSI1 is an intron-less gene and only one copy could be detected in the tomato genome. The promoter region of TPSI1 contains several conserved sequences found in phosphate starvation induced genes of yeast. The TPSI1 transcripts are rapidly induced in roots and leaves during Pi starvation. A significant increase in the TPSI1 mRNA was observed in cell cultures and roots after 3 and 12 h of Pi starvation, respectively. Induction of the TPSI1 gene appears to be a response specific to Pi starvation since it is not affected by starvation of other nutrients (nitrogen, potassium and iron). The amount of TPSI1 transcript decreased rapidly when Pi-starved tomato plants were resupplied with Pi. These results suggest that TPSI1 gene expression may be a part of the early Pi starvation response mechanism in plants.