Reduction of Fe(III) to Fe(II) by Fe(III) chelate reductase is thought to be an obligatory step in iron uptake as well as the primary factor in making iron available for absorption by all plants except grasses. Fe(III) chelate reductase has also been suggested to play a more general role in the regulation of cation absorption. In order to experimentally address the importance of Fe(III) chelate reductase activity in the mineral nutrition of plants, three Arabidopsis thaliana mutans (frd1-1, frd1-2 and frd1-3), that do not show induction of Fe(III) chelate reductase activity under iron-deficient growth conditions, have been isolated and characterized. These mutants are still capable of acidifying the rhizosphere under iron-deficiency and accumulate more Zn and Mn in their shoots relative to wild-type plants regardless of iron status. frd1 mutants do not translocate radiolabeled iron to the shoots when roots are presented with a tightly chelated form of Fe(III). These results: (1) confirm that iron must be reduced before it can be transported, (2) show that Fe(III) reduction can be uncoupled from proton release, the other major iron-deficiency response, and (3) demonstrate that Fe(III) chelate reductase activity per se is not necessarily responsible for accumulation of cations previously observed in pea and tomato mutants with constitutively high levels of Fe(III) chelate reductase activity.