Carotenoid and abscisic acid (ABA) levels were determined in endosperm, embryos and seedlings of wild-type and viviparous (vp) mutants ofZea mays L. Carotenoid concentrations were determined by absorption spectrometry following purification by high-performance liquid chromatography and ABA concentrations by combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Lutein and zeaxanthin were the terminal carotenoids in wild-type tissue. The carotenoid profiles ofvp-1 andvp-8 tissue were similar to that of the wild type; invp-2, vp-5, vp-7 andvp-9 carotenogenesis was blocked at early stages so that xanthophylls were absent. Except forvp-1, where the ABA content was similar to the wild type, the ABA content ofvp embryos was substantially reduced, to 6-16% of the corresponding wild type. Thus, the absence of xanthophylls was associated with reduced ABA content, which was in turn correlated with vivipary. Kernels ofvp-8 had a reduced ABA content although xanthophylls were present. Seedlings of carotenoid-deficient mutants rescued from viviparous kernels contained less ABA than did wild-type seedlings grown in the same way. Furthermore, the ABA concentration of such seedlings did not increase in response to water deficit. Conversely,vp-1 seedlings contained normal levels of carotenoids and ABA. Carotenoid-deficient seedlings did not contain appreciable amounts of chlorophyll so that chloroplast development was not normal. Thus ABA-deficiency could be associated with abnormal plastid development rather than the absence of carotenoids per se.