Sensing and signalling events that detect abiotic stress-induced changes in plant water status and initiate downstream stress responses such as ABA (abscisic acid) accumulation and osmoregulation remain uncharacterized in plants. Although conclusive results are lacking, recent results from plants, and analogies to signalling in other organisms, suggest possible mechanisms for sensing altered water status and initial transduction of that signal. Internal signals that act downstream of ABA and modulate stress responses to reflect the type and severity of the stress and the metabolic status of the plant are also not well understood. Two specific types of signalling, sugar sensing and reactive oxygen signalling, are likely to be modulators of ABA response under stress. For both upstream sensing and signalling of plant water status as well as downstream modulation of ABA response, present results suggest several genetic strategies with high potential to increase our understanding of the molecular basis by which plants sense and respond to altered water status.