Molecular studies of drought stress in plants use a variety of strategies and include different species subjected to a wide range of water deficits. Initial research has by necessity been largely descriptive, and relevant genes have been identified either by reference to physiological evidence or by differential screening. A large number of genes with a potential role in drought tolerance have been described, and major themes in the molecular response have been established. Particular areas of importance are sugar metabolism and late-embryogenesis-abundant (LEA) proteins. Studies have begun to examine mechanisms that control the gene expression, and putative regulatory pathways have been established. Recent attempts to understand gene function have utilized transgenic plants. These efforts are of clear agronomic importance.