The multifunctional protein (MFP) of peroxisomal beta-oxidation catalyses four separate reactions, two of which (2-trans enoyl-CoA hydratase and L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase) are core activities required for the catabolism of all fatty acids. We have isolated and characterized five Arabidopsis thaliana mutants in the MFP2 gene that is expressed predominantly in germinating seeds. Seedlings of mfp2 require an exogenous supply of sucrose for seedling establishment to occur. Analysis of mfp2-1 seedlings revealed that seed storage lipid was catabolized more slowly, long-chain acyl-CoA substrates accumulated and there was an increase in peroxisome size. Despite a reduction in the rate of beta-oxidation, mfp2 seedlings are not resistant to the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxybutyric acid, which is catabolized to the auxin 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid by beta-oxidation. Acyl-CoA feeding experiments show that the MFP2 2-trans enoyl-CoA hydratase only exhibits activity against long chain (C18:0) substrates, whereas the MFP2 L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase is active on C6:0, C12:0 and C18:0 substrates. A mutation in the abnormal inflorescence meristem gene AIM1, the only homologue of MFP2, results in an abnormal inflorescence meristem phenotype in mature plants (Richmond and Bleecker, Plant Cell 11, 1999, 1911) demonstrating that the role of these genes is very different. The mfp2-1 aim1double mutant aborted during the early stages of embryo development showing that these two proteins share a common function that is essential for this key stage in the life cycle.