VERNALIZATION INSENSITIVE 3 (VIN3), which is required for the vernalization-mediated epigenetic repression of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) in Arabidopsis thaliana, is quantitatively induced in response to low temperatures. We found that hypoxic conditions also induce VIN3 in a quantitative manner but high salt, high temperatures and osmotic stress do not. Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration did not induce VIN3 expression, consistent with the lack of VIN3 induction in response to other stresses that affect the rate of mitochondrial respiration. De novo protein synthesis is required for VIN3 induction during hypoxic conditions; this situation is not the case for VIN3 induction by low temperatures, indicating that different mechanisms act to induce VIN3 expression in response to cold and hypoxic conditions. Without VIN3 activity, fewer seedlings survived following a 72-h period of hypoxic treatment, indicating that VIN3 is required for the survival of Arabidopsis thaliana in response to hypoxic stress. Complementation of the vin3 mutant with a VIN3 transgene restored the wild-type response to low oxygen and confirmed the role of VIN3 in protecting both shoots and roots during low oxygen conditions. Loss of VIN3 protein did not affect the transcriptional regulation of genes known to be important in the response to low oxygen stress, which suggests that there is a novel mechanism to combat hypoxia that involves VIN3. This mechanism is likely to involve chromatin remodelling and may be similar to the role of VIN3 in the epigenetic repression of FLC during the vernalization response.