Little is known about the biological role of nucleases induced during plant senescence and programmed cell death (PCD). Arabidopsis BFN1 has been identified as a senescence-associated type I nuclease, whose protein sequence shares high homology with some other senescence- or PCD-associated plant nucleases. To learn about BFN1 regulation, its expression pattern was analysed. A 2.3 kb portion of the 5' promoter sequence of BFN1 was cloned and its ability to activate the GUS reporter gene was examined. Transgenic Arabidopsis and tomato plants harbouring this chimeric construct were analysed for GUS expression. In both, the BFN1 promoter was able specifically to direct GUS expression in senescent leaves, differentiating xylem and the abscission zone of flowers. Thus, at least part of the regulation of BFN1 is mediated at the transcriptional level, and the regulatory elements are recognized in the two different plants. In tomato, specific expression was observed in the leaf and the fruit abscission zones. The BFN1 promoter was also active in other tissues, including developing anthers and seeds, and in floral organs after fertilization. PCD has been implicated in all of these processes, suggesting that in addition to senescence, BFN1 is involved in PCD associated with different development processes in Arabidopsis.