Two cDNAs (At.EIF4E1 and At.EIF4E2) encoding, respectively, the eukaryotic initiation factors eIF4E and eIF(iso)4E of Arabidopsis thaliana were isolated by complementation of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae conditional mutant. The deduced amino acid sequences of the proteins are homologous to those from monocotyledonous plants, yeast and mammals. The corresponding genes were identified in YAC clones mapping to chromosome IV (At.EIF4E1) and to chromosome V (At.EIF4E2). The yeast strain complemented by At.EIF4E2 grew poorly compared with an isogenic strain expressing At.EIF4E1. Northern and in situ hybridization analysis show that both Arabidopsis At.EIF4E1 and At.EIF4E2 mRNAs are differentially accumulated in plant tissues. The At.EIF4E1 mRNA is expressed in all tissues except in the cells of the specialization zone of the roots; the At.EIF4E2 mRNA is particularly abundant in floral organs and in young developing tissues. This work further demonstrates an association between a high level of EIF4E mRNAs and cell proliferation and suggests that the plant eIF4E isoforms may have distinct functions in cell development and metabolism.