Low temperatures during rice (Oryza sativa L.) pollen development cause pollen sterility and decreased grain yield. We show that the time of highest sensitivity to cold coincides with the time of peak tapetal activity: the transition of the tetrad to early uni-nucleate stage (young microspore, YM stage). Low temperatures at this stage of pollen development result in an accumulation of sucrose in the anthers, accompanied by decreased activity of cell wall bound acid invertase and depletion of starch in mature pollen grains. Expression analysis of two cell wall (OSINV1, 4) and one vacuolar (OSINV2) acid invertase genes showed that OSINV4 is anther-specific and down-regulated by cold treatment. OSINV4 is transiently expressed in the tapetum cell layer at the YM stage, and later from the early binucleate stage in the maturing microspores. The down-regulation of OSINV4 expression in the tapetum at YM may cause a disruption in hexose production and starch formation in the pollen grains. In a cold-tolerant cultivar, OSINV4 expression was not reduced by cold; sucrose did not accumulate in the anthers and starch formation in the pollen grains was not affected.