The iaaL gene of Pseudomonas syringae subsp. savastanoi encodes an indoleacetic acid-lysine synthetase that conjugates lysine to indoleacetic acid. A chimaeric gene consisting of the iaaL coding region under the control of the 35S RNA promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus (35SiaaL) has been used to test if iaaL gene expression leads to morphological alterations in tobacco and potato. Transgenic tobacco plantlets bearing this construct have been shown to synthesize IAA-[14C]lysine when fed with [14C]lysine. In late stages of development, their leaves show an increased nastic curvature (epinasty) of the petiole and midvein, a finding suggestive of an abnormal auxin metabolism. The alteration is transmitted to progeny as a dominant Mendelian trait cosegregating with the kanamycin resistance marker. Transgenic potato plants harbouring the construct are also characterized by petiole epinasty. Moreover, 35SiaaL transgenic plants have an increased internode length in potato and decreased root growth in both tobacco and potato. An increased content of IAA-conjugates in leaf blade was found to correlate with the epinastic alterations caused by iaaL gene expression in tobacco leaves. These data provide evidence that IAA conjugation is able to modulate hormone action, suggesting that the widespread endogenous auxin-conjugating activities are of physiological importance.