The enzyme Cinnamyl Alcohol Dehydrogenase (CAD) catalyses the last step of lignin monomer synthesis, and is considered as a molecular marker of cell wall lignification in different plants species. Here, we report the isolation and analysis of 5' flanking genomic DNA regions upstream to the CAD gene, from two conifers, i.e. white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.). Sequence comparisons with available CAD gene promoters from angiosperms highlighted the conservation of cis-elements matching MYB, WRKY and bHLH binding sites. Functional characterization of the P. glauca CAD promoter used P. glauca seedlings stably transformed with a DNA fragment of 1,163 base pairs (PgCAD) fused to the beta-glucuronidase (GUS) gene. Histochemical observations of different vegetative organs of the transgenic trees showed that this sequence was sufficient to drive GUS expression in lignifying tissues, and more specifically in differentiating xylem cells. Quantitative RT-PCR experiments also indicated that the native CAD gene was preferentially expressed in differentiating xylem both in stems and roots. In addition, GUS expression driven by the PgCAD promoter was wound-inducible which was consistent with the accumulation of CAD mRNA in response to jasmonate application and mechanical wounding. The spruce CAD promoter represents a valuable tool for research and biotechnology applications related to xylem and wood.