Recent breakthroughs in cytokinin research have shed new light on the role of cytokinin in plant development. Loss-of-function mutants of a cytokinin receptor reveal a role for the hormone in establishment of the vasculature during embryonic development. Cytokinin controls the number of early cell divisions via a two-component signaling system. Genetically engineered plants that have a reduced cytokinin content demonstrate the regulatory role of the hormone in control of meristem activity and organ growth during postembryonic development, with opposite roles in roots and shoots. There is increasing evidence from work with transgenic plants and mutant analysis that cytokinins do not perform the previously proposed function as a root-derived signal for the regulation of shoot branching. Root-borne cytokinins might serve as a long-range signal controling other processes at distant sites, such as responding to nutritional status, particularly nitrogen availability.