Using electroporation-mediated gene transfer, the gene encoding the Slow (S) migrating polypeptide of the maize (Zea mays L.) alcohol dehydrogenase-1 (Adh1) enzyme has been introduced stably and transiently into maize cells containing an endogenous Fast (F) ADH1 electromorph. In stable transformants an 11.5-kb fragment was sufficient to program normal S expression relative to the endogenous F allele. In transient assays, Adh1-S gene constructs lacking the 9 Adh1-S intervening sequences (introns) were expressed at levels 50- to 100-fold less than the intact gene; the presence of intron 1 alone restored levels of gene expression to those found with the intact gene. The last two introns also stimulate Adh1-S expression, but the level is threefold below that of the intact gene. The expression of a chimeric chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene utilizing the 5' promoter and 3' polyadenylation regions of the Adh1 gene was increased 100-fold by the addition of sequences containing the Adh1 intron 1. The Adh1 intron 1 sequences did not stimulate CAT expression when located outside the transcribed region. When located within the transcribed region, the Adh1 intron 1 region efficiently stimulated CAT expression only when located between the promoter and the CAT coding region. A construct containing the Adh1 intron 1 fragment produced 40-fold more mRNA than a construct containing an equivalent cDNA fragment. Both the Adh1 intron 1 and the intron from a second maize gene, Bronze1, stimulated expression from other promoters (cauliflower mosaic virus 35S and nopaline synthase) and of other coding regions (luciferase and neomycin phosphotransferase II) as well. These results indicated that introns increase both Adh1 and chimeric gene expression in maize and the optimal location for such an intron is near the 5' end of the mRNA.