The carboxylic ionophore, monensin, rapidly induced cell-wall acidification and a decrease in cytosolic pH when added to maize coleoptiles at low external pH and Na(+) concentration. Elongation growth at rates equivalent to those obtained with indole-3-acetic acid was induced for about 1 h. Stimulation of the outwardly directed proton pump apparently occurred, since under the same conditions monensin induced membrane hyperpolarization of maize root rhizodermis cells. When the external pH was high (>8) and Na(+) present, monensin treatment caused only minimal changes in membrane potential and cytosolic pH. Although the ionophore transported protons out of the cell, resulting in cell-wall acidification, no elongation growth occurred. However, under identical conditions, indole-3-acetic acid dit induce growth. The data indicates that stimulation of the outwardly directed electrogenic proton pump rather than the subsequent acidification of the cell wall is vital for the induction of elongation growth.