Answers to long-standing questions concerning the molecular mechanism of auxin action and auxin's exact functions in plant growth and development are beginning to be uncovered through studies using mutant and transgenic plants. We review recent work in this area in vascular plants. A number of conclusions can be drawn from these studies. First, auxin appears essential for cell division and viability, as auxin auxotrophs isolated in tissue culture are dependent on auxin for growth and cannot be regenerated into plants even when auxin is supplied exogenously. Secondly, plants with transgenes that alter auxin levels are able to regulate cellular auxin concentrations by synthesis and conjugation; wild-type plants are probably also capable of such regulation. Thirdly, the phenotypes of transgenic plants with altered auxin levels and of mutant plants with altered sensitivity to auxin confirm earlier physiological studies which indicated a role for auxin in regulation of apical dominance, in development of roots and vascular tissue, and in the gravitropic response. Finally, the cloning of a mutationally identified gene important for auxin action, along with accumulating biochemical evidence, hints at a major role for protein degradation in the auxin response pathway.