Carrot cell wall beta-fructosidase, previously purified and cloned, is encoded by a single, wound- and pathogen-inducible gene. The developmental regulation of the gene was studied by determining the steady-state mRNA levels in different organs during carrot development: cell wall beta-fructosidase mRNA was detected in roots and leaves of young plants but not during tap root development. A genomic clone was isolated and characterized. The transcription start site was determined by primer extension analysis. Inspection of the promoter sequence (1488 bp) revealed the presence of sequences with high homology to cis-acting elements for the regulation of plant genes by wounding and infection. The 5'-regulatory sequence was fused to the reporter gene beta-glucuronidase (GUS) and tested in a transient expression assay with carrot suspension cells and wounded carrot root tissue (aged disks of carrot roots). The expression of the GUS gene in the transfected cells proved that the isolated promoter was functional. In transgenic tobacco plants containing the cell wall beta-fructosidase promoter fused to GUS, the reporter gene was predominantly expressed in the shoot and root meristems of young seedlings. No GUS expression was detected in mature tobacco plants, showing that the development-specific regulation of the cell wall beta-fructosidase promoter seen in carrot was maintained in tobacco plants. In contrast, expression of the GUS reporter gene in transgenic tobacco was not wound inducible. To analyze the functional organization of the cell wall beta-fructosidase promoter, a 5'-deletion series was generated and tested in a transient expression assay in protoplasts of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia. Two regions containing putative silencer elements were identified. A comparison of these regions with known silencer elements identified in both regions one copy of the negative dominant cis-acting element found in a chalcone synthase promoter of petunia.