A procedure has been developed to isolate protoplasts from mature aleurone layers of the malting variety Alexis and four other barley genotypes. It combines induction of endogenous cell wall degrading enzymes together with use of Onuzuka cellulase R 10 and driselase and results in better yields for two varieties than can be obtained with the huskless variety Himalaya. The viability of the freshly isolated protoplasts is greater than 90% and in spite of the presence of gibberellic acid during isolation procedures, most of the protoplasts are at an early developmental stage, as judged by ultrastructure. Gibberellic acid-induced changes in protoplast structure resemble those reported for Himalaya protoplasts. The protoplasts secrete both α-amylase (EC 18.104.22.168) and (1-3, 1-4)-β-glucanase (EC 22.214.171.124) into the surrounding medium. Transfection studies using a low pI α-amylase promoter to direct chloramphenicol acetyltransferase expression in aleurone protoplasts from Alexis and Himalaya revealed significant differences in their hormone responsiveness. In the absence of hormones, low levels of expression of the reporter enzyme were obtained in Alexis protoplasts, while high levels were characteristic for Himalaya protoplasts. An 8-fold increase in the expression of the reporter gene was induced by supplying the transfected Alexis protoplasts with gibberellin A3, whereas expression in Himalaya protoplasts remained unchanged. When Himalaya protoplasts were isolated from aleurone layers that had not been incubated with GA3 during the initial stages of protoplasting (the classical procedure), the hormone response of the promoter was 2.5-fold. It is thus possible to optimize the aleurone protoplast isolation procedure for different barley genotypes and mutants of interest in studies of transgenic gene expression and hormone induced secretion of proteins from this unique secretory plant tissue.