Germins and germin-like proteins (GLPs) constitute a large and highly diverse family of ubiquitous plant cell wall proteins. These proteins seem to be involved in many developmental stages and stress-related processes, but their exact participation in these processes generally remains obscure. In Pinus caribaea Morelet, the PcGER1 gene is expressed uniquely in embryo tissues, and encodes a GLP ionically bound to the walls of pine embryo cells maintained in 2,4-D-containing medium. We have cloned a genomic fragment including the 1520 bp 5′-upstream promoter region of PcGER1. This sequence contains, in its 1200 bp distal part, several cis elements (e.g. SEF4, 60 kDa protein, ABA RE and Dof recognition sites) present in genes responding to hormones and/or expressed in embryo or seed tissues, or during germination. The PcGER1 promoter sequence was cloned upstream of the GUS (β-glucuronidase) reporter gene and transferred to tobacco Bright Yellow 2 (BY-2) cells via Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation. Promoter activity and growth performances of transgenic asynchronous cell suspensions were analysed in the presence or absence of 2,4-D and/or BA. Optimal growth, maximum cell-wall yield and PcGER1 promoter activity were observed in the presence of 2,4-D and BA at day 4, the end of the exponential growth phase where 70–75% cells have a 2C DNA content. Analysis of promoter activity during the cell cycle in an aphidicoline-synchronized culture suggested that the expression is maximum in G1 cells. We also showed that under optimal growth conditions, 5′ promoter deletions decreased the activity of the reporter gene. We discuss the function of this gene with regards to cell growth.

Accession number: The PcGER1 promoter sequence was submitted to the genbank database under the accession number AY077704.