We have used the Escherichia coli beta-glucuronidase gene (GUS) as a gene fusion marker for analysis of gene expression in transformed plants. Higher plants tested lack intrinsic beta-glucuronidase activity, thus enhancing the sensitivity with which measurements can be made. We have constructed gene fusions using the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter or the promoter from a gene encoding the small subunit of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase (rbcS) to direct the expression of beta-glucuronidase in transformed plants. Expression of GUS can be measured accurately using fluorometric assays of very small amounts of transformed plant tissue. Plants expressing GUS are normal, healthy and fertile. GUS is very stable, and tissue extracts continue to show high levels of GUS activity after prolonged storage. Histochemical analysis has been used to demonstrate the localization of gene activity in cells and tissues of transformed plants.