The growth-inhibiting effects of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) at high concentration and the synthetic auxins 7-chloro-3-methyl-8-quinolinecarboxylic acid (quinmerac), 2-methoxy-3,6-dichlorobenzoic acid (dicamba), 4-amino-3,6,6-trichloropicolinic acid (picloram), and naphthalene acetic acid, were investigated in cleavers (Galium aparine). When plants were root treated with 0.5 mm IAA, shoot epinasty and inhibition of root and shoot growth developed during 24 h. Concomitantly, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) synthase activity, and ACC and ethylene production were transiently stimulated in the shoot tissue within 2 h, followed by increases in immunoreactive (+)-abscisic acid (ABA) and its precursor xanthoxal (xanthoxin) after 5 h. After 24 h of treatment, levels of xanthoxal and ABA were elevated up to 2- and 24-fold, relative to control, respectively. In plants treated with IAA, 7-chloro-3-methyl-8-quinolinecarboxylic acid, naphthalene acetic acid, 2-methoxy-3,6-dichlorobenzoic acid, and 4-amino-3,6,6-trichloropicolinic acid, levels of ethylene, ACC, and ABA increased in close correlation with inhibition of shoot growth. Aminoethoxyvinyl-glycine and cobalt ions, which inhibit ethylene synthesis, decreased ABA accumulation and growth inhibition, whereas the ethylene-releasing ethephon promoted ABA levels and growth inhibition. In accordance, tomato mutants defective in ethylene perception (never ripe) did not produce the xanthoxal and ABA increases and growth inhibition induced by auxins in wild-type plants. This suggests that auxin-stimulated ethylene triggers ABA accumulation and the consequent growth inhibition. Reduced catabolism most probably did not contribute to ABA increase, as indicated by immunoanalyses of ABA degradation and conjugation products in shoot tissue and by pulse experiments with [3H]-ABA in cell suspensions of G. aparine. In contrast, studies using inhibitors of ABA biosynthesis (fluridone, naproxen, and tungstate), ABA-deficient tomato mutants (notabilis, flacca, and sitiens), and quantification of xanthophylls indicate that ABA biosynthesis is influenced, probably through stimulated cleavage of xanthophylls to xanthoxal in shoot tissue.