The biosynthesis and emission of volatile plant terpenoids, such as isoprene and methylbutenol (MBO), depend on the chloroplastic production of dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). To date, it has been difficult to study the relationship of cellular DMAPP levels to emission of these volatiles because of the lack of a sensitive assay for DMAPP in plant tissues. Using a recent DMAPP assay developed in our laboratories, we report that species with the highest potential for isoprene and MBO production also exhibit elevated light-dependent DMAPP production, ranging from 110% to 1,063%. Even species that do not produce significant amounts of volatile terpenoids, however, exhibit some potential for light-dependent production of DMAPP. We used a nonaqueous fractionation technique to determine the intracellular distribution of DMAPP in isoprene-emitting cottonwood (Populus deltoides) leaves; approximately 65% to 70% of the DMAPP recovered at midday occurred in the chloroplasts, indicating that most of the light-dependent production of DMAPP was chloroplastic in origin. The midday concentration of chloroplastic DMAPP in cottonwood leaves is estimated to be 0.13 to 3.0 mM, which is consistent with the relatively high K(m)s that have been reported for isoprene synthases (0.5-8 mM). The results provide support for the hypothesis that the light dependence of isoprene and MBO emissions is in part due to controls over DMAPP production.