By fusing the genes encoding green fluorescent protein (GFP) and beta-glucuronidase (GUS) we have created a set of bifunctional reporter constructs which are optimized for use in transient and stable expression studies in plants. This approach makes it possible to combine the advantage of GUS, its high sensitivity in histochemical staining, with the advantages of GFP as a vital marker. The fusion proteins were functional in transient expression studies in tobacco using either DNA bombardment or potato virus X as a vector, and in stably transformed Arabidopsis thaliana and Lotus japonicus plants. The results show that high level of expression does not interfere with efficient stable transformation in A. thaliana and L. japonicus. Using confocal laser scanning microscopy we show that the fusion constructs are very suitable for promoter expression studies in all organs of living plants, including root nodules. The use of these reporter constructs in the model legume L. japonicus offers exciting new possibilities for the study of the root nodulation process.