Alternative oxidase (Aox) is a nuclear-encoded mitochondrial protein. In soybean (Glycine max), the three members of the gene family have been shown to be differentially expressed during normal plant development and in response to stresses. To examine the function of the Aox promoters, genomic fragments were obtained for all three soybean genes: Aox1, Aox2a, and Aox2b. The regions of these fragments immediately upstream of the coding regions were used to drive beta-glucuronidase (GUS) expression during transient transformation of soybean suspension culture cells and stable transformation of Arabidopsis. The expression patterns of the GUS reporter genes in soybean cells were in agreement with the presence or absence of the various endogenous Aox proteins, determined by immunoblotting. Deletion of different portions of the upstream regions identified sequences responsible for both positive and negative regulation of Aox gene expression in soybean cells. Reporter gene analysis in Arabidopsis plants showed differential tissue expression patterns driven by the three upstream regions, similar to those reported for the endogenous proteins in soybean. The expression profiles of all five members of the Arabidopsis Aox gene family were examined also, to compare with GUS expression driven by the soybean upstream fragments. Even though the promoter activity of the upstream fragments from soybean Aox2a and Aox2b displayed the same tissue specificity in Arabidopsis as they do in soybean, the most prominently expressed endogenous genes in all tissues of Arabidopsis were of the Aox1 type. Thus although regulation of Aox expression generally appears to involve the same signals in different species, different orthologs of Aox may respond variously to these signals. A comparison of upstream sequences between soybean Aox genes and similarly expressed Arabidopsis Aox genes identified common motifs.