The Arabidopsis thaliana gene CUT1 encodes a very-long-chain fatty acid-condensing enzyme required for the production of epicuticular wax in bolting stems. We have examined the expression pattern of CUT1 in Arabidopsis at different developmental stages and under different environmental conditions. RNA blot analysis showed that CUT1 was highly expressed in shoots, but not in roots. CUT1 expression was detectable throughout development. Light was required for CUT1 expression, and expression was increased by salt and drought treatments. The promoter region of the CUT1 gene was cloned, and 1.2 kb of the sequence 5' to the translation start codon was used to direct beta-glucuronidase (GUS) expression in transgenic plants. Histochemical and fluorometric (quantitative) GUS assays confirmed that the CUT1 promoter directed epidermal-specific expression and was highly active in Arabidopsis and in tobacco. A construct using the CUT1 promoter to drive CUT1 expression (CUT1p-CUT1) was used to transform Arabidopsis. Transgenic plants which had somewhat increased (overexpression) or greatly reduced (co-suppression) wax loads were recovered. Thus, the CUT1 promoter should be useful for genetic engineering applications that require epidermis-specific expression of genes.