We have cloned a full-length cDNA from the higher plant Chenopodium album coding for a single subunit bacteriophage-type RNA polymerase. The cDNA isolated from an actively growing cell suspension culture recognized a 3.8 kb transcript on Northern blots. The open reading frame comprises 987 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 112 kDa. A comparison of the protein sequence with those of the two known fungal mitochondrial RNA polymerases, from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Neurospora crassa , reveals extensive homology between the three enzymes. with complete conservation of all catalytically essential amino acids. The putative mitochondrial RNA polymerase from C.album , as well as homologous sequences from rice and barley, which have been partially cloned, lack two catalytically non-essential regions of up to 176 amino acids near the C-terminus present in the two fungal mitochondrial RNA polymerases. The extreme N-terminus of the cloned C.album RNA polymerase displays features of a potential mitochondrial transit sequence. In phylogenetic trees constructed to compare the evolutionary relationships between the different single subunit RNA polymerases the C.album sequence forms a subgroup together with the S.cerevisiae and the N.crassa mitochondrial RNA polymerases, well separating from both bacteriophage enzymes and plasmid-encoded RNA polymerases found in mitochondria of many fungi and some higher plants.