The Aurora kinases are serine/threonine kinases with conserved functions in mitotic cell division in eukaryotes. In Arabidopsis, Aurora kinases play important roles in primary meristem maintenance, but their functions in vascular development are still elusive. We report a dominant xdi-d mutant showing the xylem development inhibition (XDI) phenotype. Gene identification and transgenic overexpression experiments indicated that the activation of the Arabidopsis Aurora 2 (AtAUR2) gene is responsible for the XDI phenotype. In contrast, the aur1-2 aur2-2 double mutant plants showed enhanced differentiation of phloem and xylem cells, indicating that the Aurora kinases negatively affect xylem differentiation. The transcript levels of key regulatory genes in vascular cell differentiation, i.e. ALTERED PHLOEM DEVELOPMENT (APL), VASCULAR-RELATED NAC-DOMAIN 6 (VND6) and VND7, were higher in the aur1-2 aur2-2 double mutant and lower in xdi-d mutants compared with the wild-type plants, further supporting the functions of alpha-Aurora kinases in vascular development. Gene mutagenesis and transgenic studies showed that protein phosphorylation and substrate binding, but not protein dimerization and ubiquitination, are critical for the biological function of AtAUR2. These results indicate that alpha-Aurora kinases play key roles in vascular cell differentiation in Arabidopsis.