Halophytes, plants that survive to reproduce in environments where the salt concentration is around 200 mm NaCl or more, constitute about 1% of the world's flora. Some halophytes show optimal growth in saline conditions; others grow optimally in the absence of salt. However, the tolerance of all halophytes to salinity relies on controlled uptake and compartmentalization of Na+, K+ and Cl- and the synthesis of organic 'compatible' solutes, even where salt glands are operative. Although there is evidence that different species may utilize different transporters in their accumulation of Na+, in general little is known of the proteins and regulatory networks involved. Consequently, it is not yet possible to assign molecular mechanisms to apparent differences in rates of Na+ and Cl- uptake, in root-to-shoot transport (xylem loading and retrieval), or in net selectivity for K+ over Na+. At the cellular level, H+-ATPases in the plasma membrane and tonoplast, as well as the tonoplast H+-PPiase, provide the trans-membrane proton motive force used by various secondary transporters. The widespread occurrence, taxonomically, of halophytes and the general paucity of information on the molecular regulation of tolerance mechanisms persuade us that research should be concentrated on a number of 'model' species that are representative of the various mechanisms that might be involved in tolerance.