The expression of maize (Zea mays) phophoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PPC) gene constructions was studied in transgenic tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum). Where transcription was under the control of a maize PPC gene promoter, a low level of aberrantly large PPC transcript was detected. Analysis of this PPC transcript indicated that transcription initiation occurs upstream of the normal site. Despite the aberrant transcription initiation, expression of the PPC transcript was still light-regulated. Higher levels of maize PPC transcript of the correct size were obtained with a chimeric gene construction containing a tobacco (Nicotiana plumbaginifolia) chlorophyll a/b binding protein gene promoter. The PPC activities in the leaves of these transgenic plants were up to twofold higher than those of nontransformed plants. Two forms of PPC with different kinetic properties were identified in leaf extracts of the transgenic plants: one form with a high apparent Km for phosphoenolpyruvate (maize isozyme), and a second form exhibiting a low apparent Km (tobacco isozyme). Biochemical analyses of these plants indicated that the transgenic plants had significantly elevated levels of titratable acidity and malic acid. These biochemical differences did not produce any significant physiological changes with respect to photosynthetic rate or CO2 compensation point.