Genes induced by the plant hormone auxin are probably involved in the execution of vital cellular functions and developmental processes. Experimental approaches designed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of auxin action have focused on auxin perception, genetic dissection of the signaling apparatus and specific gene activation. Auxin-responsive promoter elements of early genes provide molecular tools for probing auxin signaling in reverse. Functional analysis of several auxin-specific promoters of unrelated early genes suggests combinatorial utilization of both conserved and variable elements. These elements are arranged into autonomous domains and the combination of such modules generates uniquely composed promoters. Modular promoters allow for auxin-mediated transcriptional responses to be revealed in a tissue- and development-specific manner.