The tissue-specific, developmental, and genetic control of four endosperm-active genes was studied via expression of GUS reporter genes in transgenic maize plants. The transgenes included promoters from the maize granule-bound starch synthase (Waxy) gene (zmGBS), a maize 27 kDa zein gene (zmZ27), a rice small subunit ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase gene (osAGP) and the rice glutelin 1 gene (osGT1). Most plants had a transgene expression profile similar to that of the endogenous gene: expression in the pollen and endosperm for the zmGBS transgene, and endosperm only for the others. Histological analysis indicated expression initiated at the periphery of the endosperm for zmGBS, zmZ27 and osGT1, while osAGP transgene activity tended to start in the lower portion of the seed. Transgene expression at the RNA level was proportional to GUS activity, and did not influence endogenous gene expression. Genetic analysis showed that there was a positive dosage response with most lines. Activity of the zmGBS transgene was threefold higher in a low starch (shrunken 2) genetic background. This effect was not seen with zmZ27 or osGTI transgenes. The expression of the transgenes is discussed relative to the known behaviour of the endogenous genes, and the developmental programme of the maize endosperm.