The gene family encoding the Arabidopsis thaliana translation elongation factor (EF-1 alpha) was analysed. This family contains four genes (A1-A4) organized in a similar manner in different varieties of Arabidopsis. Based upon both their physical separation and a comparison of their sequences, it is suggested that the A4 gene and the A1, A2, and A3 genes constitute two distinct subfamilies within the genome. By introducing chimaeric gene constructs into Arabidopsis cells, we showed that the A1 gene promoter mediates a transient expression about twofold higher than that obtained using the CaMV 35 S promoter. This expression depends on a 348 bp DNA fragment extending from -982 to -634 bp upstream of the initiation codon. This element contains a characteristic telomeric sequence (AACCCTAA) which is also found in the promoters of the A2 and A4 genes as well as in the promoters of the Drosophila EF-1 alpha F1 gene and of several highly expressed plant genes.