Among the amino acids produced by plants cysteine plays a special role as a mediator between assimilatory sulfate reduction and provision of reduced sulfur for cell metabolism. Part of this characteristic feature is the presence of cysteine synthesis in plastids, mitochondria and cytosol. Plants are the major source of reduced sulfur for human and animal nutrition. Cysteine biosynthesis deserves special attention, since reduced sulfur is channelled from cysteine into many sulfur-containing compounds in food and feed. Recent investigations are reviewed that focus on structure and regulation of cysteine synthesis in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. These data indicate that cysteine synthesis is not just an intermediate reaction step but that it is part of a regulatory network that mediates between inorganic sulfur supply and the demand for reduced sulfur during plant growth and in response to environmental changes.