We have investigated the expression pattern conferred by a cis-regulatory element (-212 to -154) from the upstream region of the octopine synthase (ocs) gene in transgenic tobacco plants. Analysis of beta-glucuronidase expression driven by the ocs regulatory element revealed a pattern that is tissue-specific and developmentally regulated. In young seedlings, expression is confined primarily to root tips. In older seedlings, expression is stronger and becomes apparent also in the shoot apex. Insertion of a 16-base pair palindromic sequence (-193 to -178), which is included in the regulatory element, into an rbcS promoter results in the expression of rbcS in roots. The 16-base pair palindrome binds activation sequence factor (ASF)-1, a factor from tobacco nuclear extracts that interacts with the sequence between -83 to -63, designated as activation sequence (as)-1, of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter [Lam et al. (1989). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 86, in press]. The in vivo expression patterns and in vitro binding properties of the ocs palindromic sequence are remarkably similar to those of the as-1 element of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter. These results suggest the involvement of ASF-1 in the transcriptional regulation of the ocs promoter and the 35S promoter.