The transposase (TPase) of the maize transposon Activator (Ac) accumulates in the nuclei of maize endosperm and transfected Petunia protoplasts, where it aggregates into rod-like structures about 2 microm in length. In petunia protoplasts the amount of TPase aggregates increases with the strength of the promoter fused to the Ac-coding region. The excision frequency of a Ds element, however, does not increase proportionally. The data suggest that the aggregated TPase is not responsible for the mobilization of the Ds element, but rather is a transpositionally inactive form of the protein. In contrast to the full-length TPase, a functional, N-terminally truncated TPase derivative is inefficiently transported into the nucleus at high expression levels and aggregates predominantly in the cytoplasm. Accordingly, the N-terminus of the TPase is involved in nuclear localization and/or aggregation.