In our studies to analyze the structure/function relationships among cytoplasmic and organellar seryl-tRNA synthetases (SerRS), we have characterized a Zea mays cDNA (SerZMm) encoding a protein with significant similarity to prokaryotic SerRS enzymes. To demonstrate the functional identity of SerZMm, the gene sequence encoding the putative mature protein was cloned. This construct complemented in vivo a temperature-sensitive Escherichia coli serS mutant strain. The mature SerZMm protein overexpressed in Escherichia coli efficiently aminoacylated bacterial tRNASer in vitro, while yeast tRNA was a poor substrate. These data identify SerZMm as an organellar maize seryl-tRNA synthetase, the first plant organellar SerRS to be cloned. The analysis of its N-terminal targeting signal suggests a mitochondrial function for the SerZMm protein in maize.