The nucleic acid binding protein Whirly1 of barley has been located to both chloroplasts and the nucleus of the same cell. Immunogold labelling furthermore showed that in vivo Whirly1 does not strictly co-localize with DNA in chloroplasts, while it is closely associated with DNA in the nucleus. High-resolution imaging of Whirly1-GFP and PEND-RFP fusion proteins revealed that only a minor part of Whirly1 co-localizes with nucleoids. The co-localization with nucleoids is in accordance with the detection of Whirly1 in a conventionally prepared fraction of the transcriptionally active chromosome (TAC). By further purification and enrichment of transcriptional activity Whirly1, however, was lost from the TAC fraction. Knockdown of Whirly1 in transgenic barley plants had neither impact on transcription of selected protein coding genes nor on genes coding for ribosomal RNAs or tRNAs. The results of RIP-chip experiments showed that barley Whirly1 as its maize orthologue associates with a set of intron containing plastid RNAs. Taken together, the results suggest that plastid-located Whirly1 functions primarily in RNA metabolism rather than as a DNA binding protein.