Gene expression for nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded subunits of respiratory chain components was measured in developing soybean cotyledons and compared to the abundance of the relevant proteins. Overall respiratory gene expression peaked at day 16, close to the peak in cytochrome chain and TCA cycle activities from day 10 to 15. Protein abundance followed transcript abundance for all components examined with the exception of the F(1)beta subunit of ATP synthase. A dramatic peak in F(1)beta transcript levels early in development (day 5 to 7) was not mirrored by an increase in protein suggesting translational or post-translational control. Mitochondrial-encoded transcripts were at least 10-fold more abundant than nuclear-encoded transcripts. The pattern of transcript and protein abundance for uncoupling proteins displayed a trend similar to other respiratory proteins examined, implicating similar control mechanisms. The expression of alternative oxidase differed, increasing throughout development with protein peaking at day 20, perhaps suggesting a role in senescence. Overall, this study indicated that respiratory gene expression and protein abundance is co-ordinated with respiratory activity for most components but that some components, such as the F(1)beta subunit may be under discrete forms of regulation.