Epigenetic silencing of foreign genes introduced into plants poses an unsolved problem for transgenic technology. Here we have used the simple multicellular green alga VOLVOX: carteri as a model to analyse the relation of DNA methylation to transgenic silencing. VOLVOX: DNA contains on average 1.1% 5-methylcytosine and 0.3% N6-methyladenine, as revealed by electrospray mass spectrometry and phosphoimaging of chromatographically separated (32)P-labelled nucleotides. In two nuclear transformants of V.carteri, produced in 1993 by biolistic bombardment with a foreign arylsulphatase gene (C-ars), the transgene is still expressed in one (Hill 181), but not in the other (Hill 183), after an estimated 500-1000 generations. Each transformant clone contains multiple intact copies of C-ars, most of them integrated into the genome as tandem repeats. When the bisulphite genomic sequencing protocol was applied to examine two select regions of transgenic C-ars, we found that the inactivated copies (Hill 183) exhibited a high-level methylation (40%) of CpG dinucleotides, whereas the active copies (Hill 181) displayed low-level (7%) CpG methylation. These are average values from 40 PCR clones sequenced from each DNA strand in the two portions of C-ars. The observed correlation of CpG methylation and transgene inactivation in a green alga will be discussed in the light of transcriptional silencing.