In Arabidopsis thaliana, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase (ACS) is encoded by a multigene family consisting of at least five members whose expression is induced by hormones, developmental signals, and protein synthesis inhibition. Li+, known to interfere with the phosphoinositide (PI) second messenger system by inhibiting the activity of inositol-phosphate phosphatases, is one of the strongest inducers of ACC synthase activity in plants. Treatment of etiolated Arabidopsis seedlings with LiCl results in a rapid induction of the ACS5 gene. Also, LiCl represses the cycloheximide (CHX)-induced accumulation of the ACS2 mRNA. The effects of Li+ on the expression of ACS5 and ACS2 are specific, dose-dependent, and can be reversed by Ca2+ and mimicked by the protein kinase inhibitor K-252a. The results suggest that the regulation of some ACS genes by various inducers may involve protein kinase activity, which in turn may be controlled through an inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3)-mediated Ca2+ mobilization. Since plants contain no Li+, the cation appears to unmask pre-existing biochemical capacity that may be utilized by various unknown transducers during plant growth and development.