A new maize homeobox gene was isolated by screening a lambda gt11 expression library with the 26 bp Shrunken feedback control element. Zmhox1a (Zea mays homeobox) is an unidentified maize gene mapping to the long arm of chromosome 8. It is a member of a new class of maize homeobox genes only distantly related to the Knotted class. The 3.1 kb Zmhox1a transcript can be detected in different maize tissues and encodes a polypeptide of 719 amino acids. Western blotting experiments detect the native 112 or 115 kDa protein in nuclear protein extracts, the nuclear localization being compatible with a function in transcriptional control. No Zmhox1a protein is detected in maize roots despite the presence of the Zmhox1a transcript; this may indicate a post-transcriptional control mechanism. A highly acidic central region of the Zmhox1a polypeptide implies a transcriptional activator function. The carboxy-terminal part of the maize homeodomain protein is related to the human Oct2 transcription factor, but homology to the POU specific domain is restricted to the POU-B subdomain. It was confirmed by DNase I footprinting experiments that DNA binding of the Zmhox1a homeodomain was at three sites flanking the TATA-box of the Shrunken promoter.