Cinnamoyl-CoA Reductase (CCR, EC 220.127.116.11) catalyses the first step of the lignin pathway. Two full-length cDNAs identified by sequence analysis as CCR-encoding cDNAs were isolated from a maize root cDNA library. These two cDNAs designated ZmCCR1 and ZmCCR2 exhibit 73% sequence conservation at the nucleotide level for their coding regions and are relatively divergent at their 5'- and 3'-untranslated regions. They both contain a common signature which is thought to be involved in the catalytic site of CCR. Northern blot analysis indicated that ZmCCR2 was expressed at very low levels in roots whereas ZmCCR1 was widely expressed in different organs. The high level of ZmCCR1 gene expression along the stalk suggests that the corresponding enzyme is probably involved in constitutive lignification.