During the past decade, the genes required for tocopherol (vitamin E) synthesis in plants and cyanobacteria have been identified. A series of mutants in which specific pathway steps are disrupted have been generated, providing new insights into tocopherol functions in photosynthetic organisms. Tocopherols are essential for controlling non-enzymatic lipid peroxidation during seed dormancy and seedling germination. Their absence results in elevated levels of malondialdehyde and phytoprostanes, and in inappropriate activation of plant defense responses. Surprisingly, tocopherol deficiency in mature leaves has limited consequences under most abiotic stresses, including high intensity light stress. The cell wall development of phloem transfer cells under cold conditions is, however, severely impaired in mature leaves of tocopherol-deficient mutants, indicating that tocopherols are required for proper adaptation of phloem loading at low temperatures.