Intact somatic embryos were obtained from an elite maize inbred line Y423, bred in our laboratory. Using 13-day immature embryos after self-pollination as explants, and after 4-5 times subculture, a large number of somatic embryos were detected on the surface of the embryonic calli on the medium. The intact somatic embryos were transferred into the differential medium, where the plantlets regenerated with shoots and roots forming simultaneously. Histological analysis and scanning electron micrographs confirmed the different developmental stages of somatic embryogenesis, including globular-shaped embryo, pear-shaped embryo, scutiform embryo, and mature embryo. cDNA-amplified fragment length polymorphism (cDNA-AFLP) was used for comparative transcript profiling between embryogenic and non-embryogenic calli of a new elite maize inbred line Y423 during somatic embryogenesis. Differentially expressed genes were cloned and sequenced. Gene Ontology analysis of 117 candidate genes indicated their involvement in cellular component, biological process and molecular function. Nine of the candidate genes were selected. The changes in their expression levels during embryo induction and regeneration were analyzed in detail using quantitative real-time PCR. Two full-length cDNA sequences, encoding ZmSUF4 (suppressor of fir 4-like protein) and ZmDRP3A (dynamin-related protein), were cloned successfully from intact somatic embryos of the elite inbred maize line Y423. Here, a procedure for maize plant regeneration from somatic embryos is described. Additionally, the possible roles of some of these genes during the somatic embryogenesis has been discussed. This study is a systematic analysis of the cellular and molecular mechanism during the formation of intact somatic embryos in maize.