The developmental accumulation pattern of messenger RNA transcripts and polypeptides for wheat gliadins and ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase was determined using cDNA and antibody probes. Gliadin mRNA was detected on Northern and RNA dot blots at 3 days after flowering, it increased 100-fold by 10 days and decreased subsequent to 14 days. The abundant mRNAs encoding alpha/beta- and gamma-type gliadins and mRNA for ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase, a key regulatory enzyme of starch biosynthesis, accumulated coordinately. Despite the coordinate accumulation of their mRNA transcripts, the accumulation of gliadin and ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase polypeptides, as determined by Western blot, differed significantly. The time at which gliadin and ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase mRNAs began accumulating was also the time when the overall pattern of gene expression, as seen by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of in vitro translation products, changed most significantly. However, the accumulation of a number of other mRNAs or polypeptides having unknown function occurred at other times during endosperm development. The pattern of expression in the earliest stages of development was strikingly similar to that of coleoptile, another rapidly growing, nonphotosynthetic tissue. Thus, the pattern of gene expression reflects the program of development observed cytologically.