Ethylene perception in plants is co-ordinated by multiple hormone receptor candidates sharing sequence commonalties with prokaryotic environmental sensor proteins known as two-component regulators. Two tomato homologs of the Arabidopsis ethylene receptor ETR1 were cloned from a root cDNA library. Both cDNAs, termed LeETR1 and LeETR2, were highly homologous to ETR1, exhibiting approximately 90% deduced amino acid sequence similarity and 80% deduced amino acid sequence identity. LeETR1 and LeETR2 contained all the major structural elements of two-component regulators, including the response regulator motif absent in LeETR3, the gene encoding tomato NEVER RIPE (NR). Using RNase protection analysis, the mRNAs of LeETR1, LeETR2 and NR were quantified in tissues engaged in key processes of the plant life cycle, including seed germination, shoot elongation, leaf and flower senescence, floral abscission, fruit set and fruit ripening. LeETR1 was expressed constitutively in all plant tissues examined. LeETR2 mRNA was expressed at low levels throughout the plant but was induced in imbibing tomato seeds prior to germination and was down-regulated in elongating seedlings and senescing leaf petioles. NR expression was developmentally regulated in floral ovaries and ripening fruit. Notably, hormonal regulation of NR was highly tissue-specific. Ethylene biosynthesis induced NR mRNA accumulation in ripening fruit but not in elongating seedlings or in senescing leaves or flowers. Furthermore, the abundance of mRNAs for all three LeETR genes remained uniform in multiple plant tissues experiencing marked changes in ethylene sensitivity, including the cell separation layer throughout tomato flower abscission.