The BARE-1 retrotransposon occurs in more than 10(4) copies in the barley genome. The element is bounded by long terminal repeats (LTRs, 1829 bp) containing motifs typical of retrotransposon promoters. These, the presence of predicted priming sites for reverse transcription, and the high conservation for all key functional domains of the coding region suggest that copies within the genome could be active retrotransposons. In view of this, we looked for transcription of BARE-1 within barley tissues and examined the promoter function of the BARE-1 LTR. We demonstrate here that BARE-1-like elements are transcribed in barley tissues, and that the transcripts begin within the BARE-1 LTR downstream of TATA boxes. The LTR can drive expression of reporter genes in transiently transformed barley protoplasts. This is dependent on the presence of a TATA box functional in planta as well. Furthermore, we identify regions within the LTR responsible for expression within protoplasts by deletion analyses of LTR-luc constructs. Similarities between promoter regulatory motifs and regions of the LTR were identified by comparisons to sequence libraries. The activity of the LTR as a promoter, combined with the abundance of BARE-1 in the genome, suggests that BARE-1 may retain the potential for propagation in the barley genome.