DNA sequences complementary to three indoleacetic acid (IAA)-inducible mRNAs in pea epicotyl tissue were isolated by differential plaque filter hybridization of cDNA libraries constructed in the vector lambda gt10. Clone pIAA6 hybridized to an mRNA encoding the previously identified translational product polypeptide 6 (Mr 22,000), and clone pIAA4/5 hybridized to one or two mRNAs, encoding polypeptides 4 and 5 (Mr 23,000 and 25,000, respectively). The cDNA clones were subsequently used to characterize the hormonally mediated mRNA accumulation. The induction of the mRNAs was rapid, within 15 minutes of exposure to the IAA, and specific to auxins. Anaerobiosis, heat and cold stress did not induce the mRNAs. Other plant hormones, such as gibberellic acid, kinetin, abscisic acid and ethylene were also unable to cause or interfere with the IAA-induced mRNA accumulation. The hormonally regulated mRNAs were induced at least 50 to 100-fold above control levels after two hours of treatment with IAA and the accumulation was (1) independent of protein synthesis, (2) completely abolished by alpha-amanitin, (3) not due to polyadenylylation of pre-existing RNAs, and (4) independent of IAA and fusicoccin-induced H+ secretion. The IAA-induced mRNAs returned to control levels within three hours after removal of IAA, and the hormonally regulated genes were primarily expressed in the third and second internode of the seven-day-old etiolated pea seedling. The data indicate that IAA increases the amount of specific mRNAs rather than alters the translatability of pre-existing mRNAs. Auxin-induced H+ secretion appears not to have a potential role in mediating the induction and perhaps is a consequence of the enhanced biosynthetic activity induced by the hormone. The IAA-mediated mRNA induction is the fastest known for any plant growth regulator and may represent a primary hormonal response to auxin.