Physiological experiments conducted over the last 60 years indicate that the plant hormone auxin regulates a diverse set of developmental processes via changes in cell division, cell elongation and cell differentiation. Recent studies using transgenic plants with altered auxin levels support these conclusions and promise to provide more detailed information on the role of auxin during plant development. Although it is possible that all auxin responses are mediated by the same primary biochemical events, the studies described in this review are more consistent with multiple modes of auxin action. The development of molecular and genetic approaches to the study of hormone action should resolve this issue. The accelerated rate of progress in this field suggests that real insight into the mechanism of auxin action may be forthcoming.