The architecture of a root system plays a major role in determining how efficiently a plant can capture water and nutrients from the soil. Growth occurs at the root tips and the process of exploring the soil volume depends on the behaviour of large numbers of individual root tips at different orders of branching. Each root tip is equipped with a battery of sensory mechanisms that enable it to respond to a range of environmental signals, including nutrients, water potential, light, gravity and touch. We have previously identified a MADS (MCM1, agamous, deficiens and SRF) box gene (ANR1) in Arabidopsis thaliana that is involved in modulating the rate of lateral root growth in response to changes in the external NO3- supply. Transgenic plants have been generated in which a constitutively expressed ANR1 protein can be post-translationally activated by treatment with dexamethasone (DEX). When roots of these lines are treated with DEX, lateral root growth is markedly stimulated but there is no effect on primary root growth, suggesting that one or more components of the regulatory pathway that operate in conjunction with ANR1 in lateral roots may be absent in the primary root tip. We have recently observed some very specific effects of low concentrations of glutamate on root growth, resulting in significant changes in root architecture. Experimental evidence suggests that this response involves the sensing of extracellular glutamate by root tip cells. We are currently investigating the possible role of plant ionotropic glutamate receptors in this sensory mechanism.