hMMS21 is a SUMO E3 ligase required for the prevention of DNA damage-induced apoptosis, and acts by facilitating DNA repair in human cells. The Arabidopsis genome contains a putative MMS21 homologue capable of interacting with the SUMO E2 conjugating enzyme AtSCE1a, as indicated by a yeast two-hybrid screen and bimolecular fluorescence complementation experiments. In vitro and in vivo data demonstrated that AtMMS21 was a SUMO E3 ligase. We identified the Arabidopsis AtMMS21 null T-DNA insertion mutant mms21-1, which had a short-root phenotype, and affected cell proliferation in the apical root meristem, as indicated by impaired expression of the cell division marker CYCB1:GUS in mms21-1 roots. The mms21-1 roots had reduced responses to exogenous cytokinins, and decreased expression of the cytokinin-induced genes ARR3, ARR4, ARR5 and ARR7, compared with the wild type. Thus, our findings suggest that the AtMMS21 gene is involved in root development via cell-cycle regulation and cytokinin signalling.