Aspartate is the common precursor of the essential amino acids lysine, threonine, methionine and isoleucine in higher plants. In addition, aspartate may also be converted to asparagine, in a potentially competing reaction. The latest information on the properties of the enzymes involved in the pathways and the genes that encode them is described. An understanding of the overall regulatory control of the flux through the pathways is undisputedly of great interest, since the nutritive value of all cereal and legume crops is reduced due to low concentrations of at least one of the aspartate-derived amino acids. We have reviewed the recent literature and discussed in this paper possible methods by which the concentrations of the limiting amino acids may be increased in the seeds.