The alternative oxidase (AOX) of the soybean (Glycine max L.) inner mitochondrial membrane is encoded by a multigene family (Aox) with three known members. Here, the Aox2 and Aox3 primary translation products, deduced for cDNA analysis, were found to be 38.1 and 36.4 Kd, respectively. Direct N-terminal sequencing of partially purified AOX from cotyledons demonstrates that the mature proteins are 31.8 and 31.6 KD, respectively, implying that processing occurs upon import of these proteins into the mitochondrion. Sequence comparisons show that the processing of plant AOX proteins occurs at a characteristic site and that the AOX2 and AOX3 proteins are more similar to one another than to other AOX proteins, including soybean AOX1. Transcript analysis using a polymerase chain reaction-based assay in conjunction with immunoblot experiments indicates that soybean Aox genes are differentially expressed in a tissue-dependent manner. Moreover, the relative abundance of both Aox2 transcripts and protein in cotyledons increase upon greening of dark-grown seedlings. These results comprehensively explain the multiple AOX-banding patterns observed on immunoblots of mitochondrial proteins isolated from various soybean tissues by matching protein bands with gene products.