In roots two distinct polar movements of auxin have been reported that may control different developmental and growth events. To test the hypothesis that auxin derived from the shoot and transported toward the root controls lateral root development, the two polarities of auxin transport were uncoupled in Arabidopsis. Local application of the auxin-transport inhibitor naphthylphthalamic acid (NPA) at the root-shoot junction decreased the number and density of lateral roots and reduced the free indoleacetic acid (IAA) levels in the root and [3H]IAA transport into the root. Application of NPA to the basal half of or at several positions along the root only reduced lateral root density in regions that were in contact with NPA or in regions apical to the site of application. Lateral root development was restored by application of IAA apical to NPA application. Lateral root development in Arabidopsis roots was also inhibited by excision of the shoot or dark growth and this inhibition was reversible by IAA. Together, these results are consistent with auxin transport from the shoot into the root controlling lateral root development.