In this issue we described a dwarf mutant in Arabidopsis thaliana, sax1, which is affected in brassinosteroid biosynthesis. This primary defect is responsible for alterations in hormone sensitivity of sax1 plants characterized by the hypersensitivity of root elongation to abscisic acid and auxin and the insensitivity of hypocotyl growth to gibberellins and ethylene (Ephritikhine et al., 1999; Plant J. 18, 303-314). In this paper, we report the further characterization of the sax1 mutant aimed at identification of the mutated step in the brassinosteroid biosynthesis pathway. Rescue experiments with various intermediates of the pathway showed that the sax1 mutation alters a very early step catalyzing the oxidation and isomerization of 3 beta-hydroxyl, delta 5,6 precursors to 3-oxo, delta 4,5 steroids. The mapping of the mutation, the physiological properties of the mutant and the rescue experiments indicate that sax1 defines a new locus in the brassinosteroid biosynthesis pathway. The SAX1 protein is involved in brassinosteroid-dependent growth of seedlings in both light and dark conditions.