Oligonucleotide arrays were used to profile gene expression in dissected maize anthers at four stages: after-anther initiation, at the rapid mitotic proliferation stage, pre-meiosis, and meiotic prophase I. Nearly 9200 sense and antisense transcripts were detected, with the most diverse transcriptome present at the pre-meiotic stage. Three male-sterile mutants lacking a range of normal cell types resulting from a temporal progression of anther failure were compared with fertile siblings at equivalent stages by transcription profiles. The msca1 mutant has the earliest visible phenotype, develops none of the normal anther cell types and exhibits the largest deviation from fertile siblings. The mac1 mutant has an excess of archesporial derivative cells and lacks a tapetum and middle layer, resulting in moderate transcriptional deviations. The ms23 mutant lacks a differentiated tapetum and shows the fewest differences from fertile anthers. By combining the data sets from the comparisons between individual sterile and fertile anthers, candidate genes predicted to play important roles during maize anther development were assigned to stages and to likely cell types. Comparative analyses with a data set of anther-specific genes from rice highlight remarkable quantitative similarities in gene expression between these two grasses.