Internal aeration is crucial for root growth in waterlogged soil. A barrier to radial oxygen loss (ROL) can enhance longdistance oxygen transport via the aerenchyma to the root tip; a higher oxygen concentration at the apex enables root growth into anoxic soil. The ROL barrier is formed within the outer part of roots (OPR). Suberin and/or lignin deposited in cell walls are thought to contribute to the barrier, but it is unclear which compound is the main constituent. This study describes gene expression profiles during ROL barrier formation in rice roots to determine the relative responses of suberin and/or lignin biosyntheses for the barrier. OPR tissues were isolated by laser microdissection and their transcripts were analysed by microarray. A total of 128 genes were significantly up- or downregulated in the OPR during the barrier formation. Genes associated with suberin biosynthesis were strongly upregulated, whereas genes associated with lignin biosynthesis were not. By an ab initio analysis of the promoters of the upregulated genes, the putative cis-elements that could be associated with transcription factors, WRKY, AP2/ERF, NAC, bZIP, MYB, CBT/DREB, and MADS, were elucidated. They were particularly associated with the expression of transcription factor genes containing WRKY, AP2, and MYB domains. A semiquantitative reverse-transcription PCR analysis of genes associated with suberin biosynthesis (WRKY, CYP, and GPAT) confirmed that they were highly expressed during ROL barrier formation. Overall, these results suggest that suberin is a major constituent of the ROL barrier in roots of rice. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.