Extracellular or cell wall invertase is regarded as crucial to supply sink tissues with carbohydrates via an apoplastic pathway. A cell wall invertase from Chenopodium rubrum was purified to homogeneity and the corresponding cDNA encoding CIN1 was identified via peptide sequences. The CIN1 mRNA was found to be highly induced by physiological concentrations of both adenine- and phenylureaderived cytokinins in suspension culture cells. This was paralleled both by a higher steady-state protein level and a higher enzyme activity of the extracellular invertase. The cytokinin-inducible accumulation of CIN1 mRNA in tissues of C. rubrum plants supports the physiological significance of this regulatory mechanism. In contrast to the extracellular sucrose cleaving enzyme, the mRNA levels of the two putative intracellular invertases CIN2 and CIN3 and of sucrose synthase were not elevated. In addition, it has been found that the accumulation of mRNA for one out of three hexose transporters present in the suspension culture cells is induced co-ordinately with the mRNA for extracellular invertase by cytokinins. It has been shown that this regulatory mechanism results in higher uptake rates both for sucrose, via the hexose monomers, and for glucose. The increased level of both extracellular invertase and hexose transporters and the resulting higher carbohydrate supply are discussed with respect to the control of carbohydrate partitioning by plant hormones and the molecular basis for known physiological cytokinin responses such as the stimulation of cell division.