The responsiveness of plants to osmotic stress is critically mediated by the increase in abscisic acid (ABA) levels. Osmotic stress induces the biosynthesis of ABA, whose increased levels subsequently exert a positive feedback on its own biosynthetic pathway. As only qualitative or semi-quantitative analyses were performed to test the inducibility of ABA biosynthetic genes in Arabidopsis thaliana, we used quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction to re-examine the induction of the ABA1, ABA2, ABA3, NCED3 and AAO3 genes by NaCl and ABA. Quantitative gene expression data obtained from wild-type plants and severely ABA-deficient mutants support the prevailing notion that the 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid cleavage reaction is the key regulatory step in NaCl-induced ABA biosynthesis. Interestingly, strong induction by NaCl of NCED3 was still observed in severe ABA-deficient mutants, pointing to an ABA-independent induction pathway for NCED3 that is NaCl-dependent. Therefore, in the absence of the ABA-mediated positive feedback on ABA biosynthesis, the ABA-independent pathway makes a major contribution to the induction of key ABA biosynthetic genes, such as NCED3, AAO3 and ABA1. In addition, and in contrast to some previous reports, our data do not support the limited ability of ABA to induce NCED3 expression. Under our experimental conditions, the induction of NCED3 by ABA, either in wild-type plants or ABA-deficient mutants, was predominant over that of other ABA biosynthetic genes. Natural variability was found in the induction by NaCl and ABA of NCED3 and ABA1 expression in different Arabidopsis accessions, although NCED3 expression was clearly predominant.