Brief irradiation of 3-d-old maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings with red light (R; 180 J m(-2)) inhibits elongation of the mesocotyl (70-80% inhibition in 8 h) and reduces its indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) content. The reduction in IAA content, apparent within a few hours, is the result of a reduction in the supply of IAA from the coleoptile unit (which includes the shoot apex and primary leaves). The fluence-response relationship for the inhibition of mesocotyl growth by R and far-red light closely resemble those for the reduction of the IAA supply from the coleoptile. The relationship between the concentration of IAA (1-10 μM) supplied to the cut surface of the mesocotyl of seedlings with their coleoptile removed and the growth increment of the mesocotyl, measured after 4 h, is linear. The hypothesis that R inhibits mesocotyl growth mainly by reducing the IAA supply from the coleoptile is supported. However, mesocotyl growth in seedlings from which the coleoptiles have been removed is also inhibited by R (about 25% inhibition in 8 h). This inhibition is not related to changes in the IAA level, and not relieved by applied IAA. In intact seedlings, this effect may also participate in the inhibition of mesocotyl growth by R. Inhibition of cell division by R, whose mechanism is not known, will also result in reduced mesocotyl elongation especially in the long term (e.g. 24 h).