The expression of chalcone synthase (CHS) genes, which encode the first enzyme of the flavonoid pathway, is under developmental control as well as affected by external stimuli such as light. Varying fragments of the 1 kb upstream region of the CHS1 gene from white mustard (Sinapis alba L.) were fused to the GUS-coding region, and the light-regulated expression of these constructs was analysed in transgenic Arabidopsis and tobacco plants. Studies performed with Arabidopsis seedlings indicate the presence of two elements within the CHS1 promoter mediating light responses via different photoreceptors. One element, located about 150 bp upstream of the transcription start site, is homologous to Unit 1 of the parsley CHS gene, the second, far more upstream element carries sequences similar to Unit 2 of the same gene. Detailed studies on Unit 1-driven expression indicate that this element transfers the expression characteristics of the original gene to both Arabidopsis and tobacco. Although the expression characteristics of Unit 1 are indistinguishable from those of the full-length promoter within the same species, we observed differences in mustard CHS promoter regulation between Arabidopsis and tobacco plants transgenic for the identical construct. The difference in photoreceptor usage by the same promoter element in different transgenic species (Unit 1 from mustard in Arabidopsis vs. tobacco) was also observed for different but homologous promoter elements in the same transgenic species (Unit 1 from mustard and parsley in tobacco). We therefore conclude that the same promoter and even the same promoter element (Unit 1) can mediate different spatial patterns of expression and modes of light regulation in different transgenic species.