The role of synthesis in the regulation of abscisic acid accumulation was investigated in the developing maize seed. To do this, expression and regulation of the abscisic acid biosynthetic enzyme phytoene desaturase were examined. Comparison of the gene sequence encoding phytoene desaturase and its transcript in the wild-type and viviparous-5 mutant showed that the mutant gene contains multiple insertions and deletions, resulting in the synthesis of a larger transcript. In addition, the 55-kDa phytoene desaturase protein was not detectable in the viviparous-5 mutant, indicating that this phenotype results from a mutation at the phytoene desaturase locus. Levels of phytoene desaturase transcript and protein were compared to abscisic acid levels during development to determine whether phytoene desaturase might regulate abscisic acid accumulation. In the endosperm, transcript levels were initially high and declined during late maturation and dormancy, while protein levels remained high throughout development. In the embryo, transcript levels were low and constant, while protein levels declined. Both temporal and tissue-specific expression of phytoene desaturase were unrelated to abscisic acid levels. An abscisic acid mutant (viviparous-2) deficient in phytoene desaturation was used to determine whether the wild-type protein encoded by Viviparous-2 regulates phytoene desaturase. Phytoene desaturase transcript and protein levels were compared in wild-type and viviparous-2 mutant embryos and endosperm. Normalized levels of phytoene desaturase were similar in wild-type and mutant tissues, suggesting that the wild-type Viviparous-2 protein does not regulate phytoene desaturase transcript or protein levels.