Arabidopsis thaliana roots grow in a wavy pattern upon a slanted surface. A novel mutation in the anthranilate synthase alpha 1 (ASA1) gene, named trp5-2wvc1, and mutations in the tryptophan synthase alpha and beta 1 genes (trp3-1 and trp2-1, respectively) confer a compressed root wave phenotype on tilted agar surfaces. When trp5-2wvc1 seedlings are grown on media supplemented with anthranilate metabolites, their roots wave like wild type. Genetic and pharmacological experiments argue that the compressed root wave phenotypes of trp5-2wvc1, trp2-1 and trp3-1 seedlings are not due to reduced IAA biosynthetic potential, but rather to a deficiency in L-tryptophan (L-Trp), or in a L-Trp derivative. Although the roots of 7-day-old seedlings possess higher concentrations of free L-Trp than the shoot as a whole, trp5-2wvc1 mutants show no detectable alteration in L-Trp levels in either tissue type, suggesting that a very localized shortage of L-Trp, or of a L-Trp-derived compound, is responsible for the observed phenotype.