In celery (Apium graveolens L.), up to 50% of newly assimilated carbon may be partitioned into mannitol in mature leaves. Mannitol biosynthesis involves three unique enzymatic steps, and mannose 6-phosphate reductase (M6PR) is the critical regulatory step in the pathway. We measured M6PR enzyme activities, M6PR protein levels (using an immunological method) and M6PR transcript levels (by Northern blotting) to assess effects of leaf development on mannitol biosynthesis. M6PR was limited to green tissues and was under tight transcriptional regulation during leaf initiation, expansion, and maturation. M6PR expression was also closely correlated with the capacity of leaves to partition newly fixed carbon into mannitol (measured by 14C pulse/chase on intact leaves). Previous studies have also shown salt stress to lead to mannitol accumulation in celery. Using the methods outlined above we also investigated the combined effects of salt stress and leaf development on M6PR expression and the capacity of leaves to partition C to mannitol. Under salt stress M6PR expression and the capacity to synthesize mannitol occurred in younger leaves than in control plants. Thus, the increase in mannitol pool size in salt-stressed celery plants is due, in part, to enhanced de novo synthesis in young leaves. The data also confirmed the relationship between development of photosynthetic capacity, mannitol synthesis and M6PR activity. Supported by USDA-NRI grant # 940-1439.