Coordinated transcriptional modulation of large gene sets depends on the combinatorial use of cis-regulatory motifs in promoters. We postulate that promoter content similarities are diagnostic for co-expressing genes that function coherently during specific cellular responses. To find the coexpressing genes we propose an ab initio method that identifies motif families in promoters of target gene groups, map these families to the promoters of all genes in the genome, and determine the best matches of each of the target group gene promoters with all other promoters. When the method was tested in rice starting from a group of co-expressing Late Embryogenesis Abundant (LEA) genes, we obtained a promoter similarity-based network that contained candidate genes that could plausibly complement the function of LEA genes. Importantly, 73.36% of 244 genes predicted by our method were experimentally confirmed to co-express with the LEA genes inmaturing rice embryos,making thismethodology a promising tool for biological systems analyses. © The Author(s) 2008.