The plant hormone auxin transcriptionally activates early genes. We have isolated a 14-member family of DNA sequences complementary to indoleacetic acid (IAA)-inducible transcripts in Arabidopsis thaliana. The corresponding genes, IAA1 to IAA14, are homologs of PS-IAA4/5 and PS-IAA6 from pea, Aux22 and Aux28 from soybean, ARG3 and ARG4 from mungbean, and AtAux2-11 and AtAux2-27 from Arabidopsis. The members of the family are differentially expressed in mature Arabidopsis plants. Characterization of IAA gene expression in etiolated seedlings demonstrates specificity for auxin inducibility. The response of most family members to IAA is rapid (within 4 to 30 minutes) and insensitive to cycloheximide. Cycloheximide alone induces all the early genes. Auxin-induction of two late genes, IAA7 and IAA8, is inhibited by cycloheximide, indicating requirement of protein synthesis for their activation. All IAA genes display a biphasic dose response that is optimal at 10 microM IAA. However, individual genes respond differentially between 10 nM and 5 microM IAA. Expression of all genes is defective in the Arabidopsis auxin-resistant mutant lines axr1, axr2 and aux1. The encoded polypeptides share four conserved domains, and seven invariant residues in the intervening regions. The spacers vary considerably in length, rendering the calculated molecular mass of IAA proteins to range from 19 kDa to 36 kDa. Overall sequence identity between members of the family is highly variable (36 to 87%). Their most significant structural features are functional nuclear transport signals, and a putative beta alpha alpha-fold whose modeled three dimensional structure appears to be compatible with the prokaryotic beta-ribbon DNA recognition motif. The data suggest that auxin induces in a differential and hierarchical fashion a large family of early genes that encode a structurally diverse class of nuclear proteins. These proteins are proposed to mediate tissue-specific and cell-type restricted responses to the hormone during plant growth and development.