Physiologically active gibberellins (GAs) are key regulators of shoot growth in trees. To investigate this mechanism of GA-controlled growth in hybrid aspen, we cloned cDNAs encoding gibberellin 20-oxidase (GA 20-oxidase), a key, highly regulated enzyme in the biosynthesis of GAs. Clones were isolated from leaf and cambium cDNA libraries using probes generated by polymerase chain reaction, based on conserved domains of GA 20-oxidases. Upon expression in Escherichia coli, the GST-fusion protein was shown to oxidise GA12 as well as oxidising the 13-hydroxylated substrate GA53, successively to GA9 and GA20, respectively. The gene PttGA20ox1 was expressed in meristematic cells and growing tissues such as expanding internodes, leaves and roots. The expression was negatively regulated by both GA4 and overexpression of phytochrome A. RNA analysis also showed that the expression was down-regulated in late-expanding leaf tissue in response to short days (SDs). Actively growing tissues such as early elongating internodes, petioles and leaf blades had the highest levels of C19-GAs. Upon transfer to SDs an accumulation of GA19 was observed in early elongating internodes and leaf blades. The levels of C19-GAs were also to some extent changed upon transfer to SDs. The levels of GA20 were down-regulated in internodes, and those of GA1 were significantly reduced in early expanding leaf blades. In roots the metabolites GA19 and GA8 decreased upon shifts to SDs, while GA20 accumulated slightly. The down-regulation of GA 20-oxidase activity in response to SDs was further indicated by studies of [14C]GA12 metabolism in shoots, demonstrating that the substrate for GA 20-oxidase, [14C]GA53, accumulates in SDs.