Abscisic acid (ABA) is a plant hormone which plays an important role in seed development and dormancy and in plant response to environmental stresses. An ABA-deficient mutant of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia, aba2, was isolated by transposon tagging using the maize Activator transposon. The aba2 mutant exhibits precocious seed germination and a severe wilty phenotype. The mutant is impaired in the first step of the ABA biosynthesis pathway, the zeaxanthin epoxidation reaction. ABA2 cDNA is able to complement N.plumbaginifolia aba2 and Arabidopsis thaliana aba mutations indicating that these mutants are homologous. ABA2 cDNA encodes a chloroplast-imported protein of 72.5 kDa, sharing similarities with different mono-oxigenases and oxidases of bacterial origin and having an ADP-binding fold and an FAD-binding domain. ABA2 protein, produced in Escherichia coli, exhibits in vitro zeaxanthin epoxidase activity. This is the first report of the isolation of a gene of the ABA biosynthetic pathway. The molecular identification of ABA2 opens the possibility to study the regulation of ABA biosynthesis and its cellular location.