Cytokinin oxidases/dehydrogenases (CKX) catalyze the irreversible degradation of the cytokinins isopentenyladenine, zeatin, and their ribosides in a single enzymatic step by oxidative side chain cleavage. To date the sequences of 17 fully annotated CKX genes are known, including two prokaryotic genes. The CKX gene families of Arabidopsis thaliana and rice comprise seven and at least ten members, respectively. The main features of CKX genes and proteins are summarized in this review. Individual proteins differ in their catalytic properties, their subcellular localization and their expression domains. The evolutionary development of cytokinin-catabolizing gene families and the individual properties of their members indicate an important role for the fine-tuned control of catabolism to assure proper regulation of cytokinin functions. The use of CKX genes as a tool in studies of cytokinin biology and biotechnological applications is discussed.