Xyloglucan endotransglycosylase (XET) catalyses the transglycosylation of xyloglucan, the major hemicellulose polymer, which has been thought to mediate the cross-linking of cellulose microfibrils in cellular walls and proposed to be involved in the control of cell wall relaxation. To understand the relationship between litchi fruit cracking and gene expression patterns, three XET genes from litchi fruit were identified and then examined for their expression profiles in pericarp and aril tissues at different development stages, using a cracking-resistant cultivar, 'Huaizhi', and a cracking-susceptible cultivar, 'Nuomici'. Three full-length cDNAs of 1267, 1095 and 1156 bp encoding XETs, named LcXET1, LcXET2 and LcXET3, respectively, were isolated from expanding fruit using RT-PCR and RACE-PCR (rapid amplification of cDNA ends) methods. Northern blotting analysis showed that LcXET1 mRNA accumulation occurred much earlier in aril tissues at 59 days after anthesis (DAA) than in pericarp tissues at 73 DAA in 'Nuomici'. However, it appeared at almost the same time (66 DAA) in pericarp and aril tissues in 'Huaizhi', which suggested that differential accumulation of LcXET1 in pericarp and aril tissues in 'Nuomici' and 'Huaizhi' was closely associated with fruit cracking. LcXET2 mRNA accumulation could be detected in pericarp and aril tissues throughout fruit development but exhibited a differential accumulation pattern between pericarp and aril tissues. In the aril of 'Nuomici', intensive signal bands were detectable at 59-73 DAA in rapidly expanding fruits of 'Nuomici' but only weak bands could be found in the pericarp tissues. In contrast, moderate signal bands were detectable both in pericarp and aril tissues of 'Huaizhi' fruits. Furthermore, LcXET3 showed constitutive expression in both pericarp and aril tissues of developing 'Nuomici' and 'Huaizhi' litchi fruit. In addition, differential expression patterns of three XETs genes were observed in different tissues of litchi, with only LcXET1 being fruit-specific. To further address the role of LcXET in fruit cracking, alpha-naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) was used to treat 'Nuomoci' to reduce fruit cracking. Enhanced LcXET1 mRNA accumulation appeared in pericarp while LcXET2 and LcXET3 mRNA accumulation enhanced in aril tissues in the NAA-treated fruits. Thus, LcXET1 is more likely to play a role in reducing litchi fruit cracking than LcXET2 and LcXET3.