Ectopic expression of the homeobox gene, NTH15 (Nicotiana tabacum homeobox 15) in transgenic tobacco leads to abnormal leaf and flower morphology, accompanied by a decrease in the content of the active gibberellin, GA1. Quantitative analysis of intermediates in the GA biosynthetic pathway revealed that the step from GA19 to GA20 was blocked in transgenic tobacco plants overexpressing NTH15. To investigate the relationship between the expression of NTH15 and genes involved in GA biosynthesis, we isolated three cDNA clones from tobacco encoding two types of GA 20-oxidase and a 3 beta-hydroxylase. RNA gel blot analysis revealed that the expression of one gene (Ntc12, encoding GA 20-oxidase), which in wild-type tobacco plants was abundantly expressed in leaves, was strongly suppressed in the transformants. The expression level of Ntc12 decreased with increasing severity of phenotype of transgenic tobacco leaves. The abnormal leaf morphology was largely overcome by treatment with GA20 or GA1 but not by GA19. These data strongly suggest that overexpression of NTH15 inhibits the expression of Ntc12, resulting in reduced levels of active GA and abnormal leaf morphology in transgenic tobacco plants. In situ hybridization in wild-type tobacco revealed that expression of Ntc12 occurred mainly in the rib meristem, cells surrounding the procambium and in leaf primordia. Expression was not seen in the tunica, corpus and procambium, tissues in which NTH15 was predominantly expressed. The contrasting expression patterns of these genes may reflect their antagonistic functions in the formation of lateral organs from the shoot apical meristem.