Regulatory promoter regions responsible for the enhanced expression in anthers and pollen are defined in detail for three nuclear encoded mitochondrial Complex I (nCl) genes from Arabidopsis thaliana. Specific regulatory elements were found conserved in the 5' upstream regions between three different genes encoding the 22 kDa (PSST), 55 kDa NADH binding (55 kDa) and 28 kDa (TYKY) subunits, respectively. Northern blot analysis and transgenic Arabidopsis plants carrying progressive deletions of the promoters fused to the beta-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene by histochemical and fluorimetric methods showed that all three promoters drive enhanced expression of GUS specifically in anther tissues and in pollen grains. In at least two of these promoters the -200/-100 regions actively convey the pollen/anther-specific expression in gain of function experiments using CaMV 35S as a minimal promoter. These nCl promoters thus contain a specific regulatory region responding to the physiological demands on mitochondrial function during pollen maturation. Pollen-specific motifs located in these regions appear to consist of as little as seven nucleotides in the respective promoter context.