Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor genes encode low molecular weight proteins which have important functions in cell cycle regulation, development and perhaps also in tumorigenesis. The first plant CDK inhibitor gene ICK1 was recently identified from Arabidopsis thaliana. Although the C-terminal domain of ICK1 contained an important consensus sequence with the mammalian CDK inhibitor p27Kip1, the remainder of the deduced ICK1 sequence showed little similarity to any known CDK inhibitors. In vitro assays showed that recombinant ICK1 exhibited unique kinase inhibitory properties. In the present study we characterized ICK1 in terms of its gene structure, its interaction with both A. thaliana Cdc2a and CycD3, and its induction by the plant growth regulator, abscisic acid (ABA). ICK1 was expressed at a relatively low level in the tissues surveyed. However, ICK1 was induced by ABA, and along with ICK1 induction there was a decrease in Cdc2-like histone H1 kinase activity. These results suggest a molecular mechanism by which plant cell division might be inhibited by ABA. ICK1 clones were also identified from independent yeast two-hybrid screens using the CycD3 construct. The implication that ICK1 protein could interact with both Cdc2a and CycD3 was confirmed by in vitro binding assays. Furthermore, deletion analysis indicated that different regions of ICK1 are required for the interactions with Cdc2a and CycD3. These results provide a mechanistic basis for understanding the role of CDK inhibitors in cell cycle regulation in plant cells.