Expansins are a class of proteins that stimulate the extension of plant cell walls. Expansins have been found in nearly all growing plant tissues, such as hycopotyls, young seedlings, fibers, internodes, flower petals, and ripening fruits. We isolated two full-length expansin cDNA clones, Pruav-Exp1 and Pruav-Exp2, from sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) fruit. Pruav-Exp1 has 1048 nucleotides encoding 254 amino acids, while Pruav-Exp2 has 1339 nucleotides encoding 250 amino acids. Deduced amino acid sequences of sweet cherry Pruav-Exp1 and Pruav-Exp2 share 72% identity. A Blast search of the GenBank database with the deduced amino acid sequences of Pruav-Exp1 and Pruav-Exp2 indicated a high sequence identity with other plant expansin genes. Interestingly, Pruav-Exp1 shares 99% identity of amino acid sequence with that of apricot expansin Pav-Exp1. Fragments from the 3' ends of Pruav-Exp1 and Pruav-Exp2 were cloned to generate gene-specific probes. These probes were used to study expansin gene expression in different tissues and during fruit development. Northern blot analysis showed different mRNA expression patterns for each gene. The mRNA of Pruav-Exp1 was expressed at the pink and ripe stages, but not at the early green and yellow stages of fruit development. The mRNA of Pruav-Exp2 was present earlier, from a low level in yellow expanding fruit, increasing to a high level at the pink stage and remaining at this level through the ripe stage. Both mRNAs were also expressed at a low level in flower, but not present in other tissues such as roots, leaves and peduncles. Our study indicates an expansin gene family is present in sweet cherry and suggests that two expansin genes may have different roles during fruit development and ripening.