Zeins are a group of alcohol-soluble proteins that are synthesized in the endosperm of developing maize seeds. These proteins are encoded by a large number of genes located on several chromosomes; based upon the number of mutants that have been isolated, zein gene regulation is complex. Comparisons of gene flanking regions reveal conserved sequences that may be important for their regulation. Studies of transformed plant tissues support the assertion that cis-acting elements with the 5' flanking regions of zein genes are required for accurate transcription. Although the genes are transcribed in transgenic tobacco and petunia plants, they are not properly regulated. This appears to be due to transcriptional effects rather than protein or mRNA instability.