[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The alpha-zein super gene family encodes the most predominant storage protein in maize (Zea mays) endosperm. In maize inbred line B73, it consists of four gene families with 41 member genes. In this study, we combined quantitative real-time PCR and random clone sequencing to successfully profile the expression of alpha-zein super gene family during endosperm development. We found that only 18 of the 41 member genes were expressed, and their expression levels diverge greatly. At the gene family level, all families had characteristic "up-and-down" oscillating expressional patterns that diverged into two major groups. At the individual gene level, member genes showed dramatic divergence of expression patterns, indicating fast differentiation of their expression regulation. A comparison study among different inbred lines revealed significantly different expressed gene sets, indicating the existence of highly diverged haplotypes. Large gene families containing long gene clusters, e.g. z1A or z1C, mainly contributed the highly divergent haplotypes. In addition, allelic genes also showed significant divergence in their expressional levels. These results indicated a highly dynamic and fast evolving nature to the maize alpha-zein super gene family, which might be a common feature for other large gene families.