We investigated the copy number of the gene for alternative oxidase (AOX) of Arabidopsis thaliana by amplification by PCR and Southern hybridization. These studies indicated that there are at least four copies of the AOX gene in Arabidopsis. We isolated genomic clones containing individual copies (designated as AOX1a, AOX1b, AOX1c and AOX2) of the AOX genes. Interestingly, two of the AOX genes (AOX1a and AOX1b) were located in tandem in a ca. 5 kb region on one of the chromosomes of Arabidopsis. Comparison between genomic and cDNA sequences of the four AOX genes showed that all AOX genes are divided by three introns and the positions of the introns in AOX1a, AOX1b, AOX1c and AOX2 are the same. We examined whether expression of Arabidopsis AOX genes, like the tobacco AOX1a gene, is enhanced by treatment with antimycin A, an inhibitor of complex III in the mitochondrial respiratory chain. We found that, in young plants, the amount of Arabidopsis AOX1a mRNA was dramatically increased by addition of antimycin A, while the transcription of the other three genes (AOX1b, AOX1c and AOX2) did not respond to antimycin A. Amplification by RT-PCR showed that AOX1a and AOX1c were expressed in all organs examined (flowers and buds, stems, rosette, and roots of 8-week old plants). In contrast, transcripts of AOX1b were detected only in the flowers and buds, and transcripts of AOX2 were detected mainly in stems, rosette and roots. These results suggested that transcriptions of the four genes for alternative oxidase of Arabidopsis are differentially regulated.