We have isolated two maize cDNAs and the corresponding genes encoding fatty acid desaturase with Arabidopsis thaliana FAD7 gene as a probe. They shared almost 90% identity at DNA sequence level. Northern analysis revealed that both genes are expressed in leaves, but not in roots at normal temperature- and low temperature-growth condition. The overall level of these transcripts are elevated upon exposure to low temperature. The tissue-specific expression and DNA sequence data indicate that both genes encode plastidic omega-3 fatty acid desaturases. One of them is expressed exclusively at normal temperature but not at 5 degrees C, whereas the other is expressed inversely. We, therefore, termed them ZmFAD7 and ZmFAD8, respectively. Among other stresses, high-salt treatment induced the accumulation of the ZmFAD7 and ZmFAD8 transcripts in roots but drought had no effect on their expression. Cycloheximide induced the accumulation of the ZmFAD7 transcript in roots. The genomic clones of ZmFAD7 and ZmFAD8 consist of 8 exons and 7 introns as same as in the cases of A. thaliana FAD7 and FAD8 genes and the sizes of the 6 internal exons were identical among them. A phylogenetic analysis of ZmFAD7, ZmFAD8 amino acid sequences and those originated from other plant species is also presented.