Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum var Samsun) was transformed using the bacterial gor gene coding for the enzyme glutathione reductase. Transgenic plants were selected by their kanamycin resistence and expression of the bacterial gor gene. After separation by isoelectric focusing techniques, leaf extracts from transgenic plants having both native and bacterial glutathione reductase activity gave, in addition to the six bands of the native enzyme, two further closely running isoenzymes. These additional bands originating from the expression of the bacterial gor gene were nonchloroplastic. Leaves from transgenic plants had two- to 10-fold higher glutathione reductase activity than non-transgenic controls. The amount of extractable glutathione reductase activity obtained in transgenic plants was dependent on leaf age and the conditions to which leaves were exposed. Both light and exposure to methylviologen increased leaf glutathione reductase activity. Elevated levels of cytosolic glutathione reductase activity in transgenic plants had no effect on the amount or reduction state of the reduced glutathione/oxidized glutathione pool under optimal conditions or oxidative conditions induced by methylviologen. The glutathione pool was unaltered despite the oxidation-dependent loss of CO(2) assimilation and oxidation of enzymes involved in photosynthesis. However, the reduction state of the ascorbate pool was greater in transgenic plants relative to nontransgenic controls following illumination of methylviologen-treated leaf discs. Therefore, we conclude that in the natural state glutathione reductase is present in tobacco at levels above those required for maximal operation of the ascorbate-glutathione pathway.