It is currently thought that most flowering plants lack the capacity to synthesize trehalose, a common disaccharide of bacteria, fungi and invertebrates that appears to play a major role in desiccation tolerance. Attempts have therefore been made to render plants more drought-resistant by the expression of microbial genes for trehalose synthesis. It is demonstrated here that Arabidopsis thaliana itself possesses genes for at least one of the enzymes required for trehalose synthesis, trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase. The yeast tps2 mutant, which lacks this enzyme, is heat-sensitive, and Arabidopsis cDNA able to complement this effect has been screened for. Half of the yeast transformants that grew at 38.6 degrees C were also able to produce trehalose. All of these expressed one of two Arabidopsis cDNA, either AtTPPA or AtTPPB, which are both homologous to the C-terminal part of the yeast TPS2 gene and other microbial trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatases. Yeast tps2 mutants expressing AtTPPA or AtTPPB contained trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase activity that could be measured both in vivo and in vitro. The enzyme dephosphorylated trehalose-6-phosphate but not glucose-6-phosphate or sucrose-6-phosphate. Both genes are expressed in flowers and young developing tissue of Arabidopsis. The finding of these novel Arabidopsis genes for trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase strongly indicates that a pathway for trehalose biosynthesis exists in plants.