Plant responses to salinity stress are reviewed with emphasis on molecular mechanisms of signal transduction and on the physiological consequences of altered gene expression that affect biochemical reactions downstream of stress sensing. We make extensive use of comparisons with model organisms, halophytic plants, and yeast, which provide a paradigm for many responses to salinity exhibited by stress-sensitive plants. Among biochemical responses, we emphasize osmolyte biosynthesis and function, water flux control, and membrane transport of ions for maintenance and re-establishment of homeostasis. The advances in understanding the effectiveness of stress responses, and distinctions between pathology and adaptive advantage, are increasingly based on transgenic plant and mutant analyses, in particular the analysis of Arabidopsis mutants defective in elements of stress signal transduction pathways. We summarize evidence for plant stress signaling systems, some of which have components analogous to those that regulate osmotic stress responses of yeast. There is evidence also of signaling cascades that are not known to exist in the unicellular eukaryote, some that presumably function in intercellular coordination or regulation of effector genes in a cell-/tissue-specific context required for tolerance of plants. A complex set of stress-responsive transcription factors is emerging. The imminent availability of genomic DNA sequences and global and cell-specific transcript expression data, combined with determinant identification based on gain- and loss-of-function molecular genetics, will provide the infrastructure for functional physiological dissection of salt tolerance determinants in an organismal context. Furthermore, protein interaction analysis and evaluation of allelism, additivity, and epistasis allow determination of ordered relationships between stress signaling components. Finally, genetic activation and suppression screens will lead inevitably to an understanding of the interrelationships of the multiple signaling systems that control stress-adaptive responses in plants.