Water deficit during meiosis in microspore mother cells of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) induces male sterility, which reduces grain yield. In plants stressed during meiosis and then re-watered, division of microspore mother cells seems to proceed normally, but subsequent pollen development is arrested. Stress affected anthers generally lack starch. We employed light microscopy in conjunction with histochemistry to compare the developmental anatomy of water-stress-affected and normal anthers. The earliest effects of stress, detectable between meiosis and young microspore stages, were the degeneration of meiocytes, loss of orientation of the re productive cells, and abnormal vacuolization of tapetal cells. Other effects observed during subsequent developmental stages were deposition of starch in the connective tissue where it is normally not present, hypertrophy of the middle layer or endothecial cells, and deposition of sporopollenin-like substances in the anther loculus. The resulting pollen grains lacked both starch and intine. These results suggest that abnormal degeneration of the tapetum in water-stressed anthers coupled with a loss of orientation of the reproductive cells could be part of early events leading to abortion of microspores.