A protocol avoiding the feeder-layer cell system was optimized for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of tomato cotyledonary explants. Over 500 transgenic plants from five tomato cultivars were regenerated in 15 independent experiments. Depending on both genotype and procedure, transformation frequencies ranged from 1.8% to 11.3%. The optimal transformation rate was obtained by inoculating explants with a bacterial suspension in exponential growth ( D(600) = 10(2)-10(3) cells/ml) and transferring cotyledon explants to fresh selective regeneration medium every 3 weeks. The ploidy level of both tomato genotypes used as explant source and primary transformants, was studied by flow cytometry. The inbred lines and cultivars were diploid but a polysomatic pattern in the cotyledon explant was confirmed. The rate of tetraploid transgenic plants ranged from 24.5% to 80% and depended on both the genotype and the transformation procedure. Surprisingly, the percentages of transformed plants with higher ploidy levels were not related to the proportion of 4C and 8C nuclei in the cotyledonary tissue. For some genotypes the optimisation of the transformation rate resulted in an increase of tetraploid transgenic plants. Results obtained in this work indicate the convenience of checking the ploidy level of the primary transformants before performing basic studies or introducing tomato transgenic material in a breeding program.