A reproducible and efficient transformation system has been developed for maize that is based on direct DNA uptake into embryogenic protoplasts and regeneration of fertile plants from protoplast-derived transgenic callus tissues. Plasmid DNA, containing the beta-glucuronidase (GUS) gene, under the control of the doubled enhancer element (the -208 to -46 bp upstream fragment) from CaMV 35S promoter, linked to the truncated (up to -389 bp from ATG) promoter of wheat, alpha-amylase gene was introduced into protoplasts from suspension culture of HE/89 genotype. The constructed transformation vectors carried either the neomycin phosphotransferase (NPTII) or phosphinothricin acetyltransferase (PAT) gene as selective marker. The applied DNA uptake protocol has resulted at least in 10-20 resistant calli, or GUS-expressing colonies after treatment of 10(6) protoplasts. Vital GUS staining of microcalli has made possible the shoot regeneration from the GUS-stained tissues. 80-90% of kanamycin or PPT resistant calli showed GUS activity, and transgenic plants were regenerated from more than 140 clones. Both Southern hybridization and PCR analysis showed the presence of introduced foreign genes in the genomic DNA of the transformants. The chimeric promoter, composed of a tissue specific monocot promoter, and the viral enhancer element specified similar expression pattern in maize plants, as it was determined by the full CaMV 35S promoter in dicot and other monocot plants. The highest GUS specific activity was found in older leaves with progressively less activity in young leaves, stem and root. Histochemical localization of GUS revealed promoter function in leaf epidermis, mesophyll and vascular bundles, in the cortex and vascular cylinder of the root. In roots, the meristematic tip region and vascular tissues stained intensively. Selected transformants were grown up to maturity, and second-generation seedlings with segregation for GUS activity were obtained after outcrossing. The GUS-expressing segregants carried also the NPTII gene as shown by Southern hybridization.