Leaf rolling is known as a typical response to water deficit in numerous species such as rice, maize, wheat and sorghum. However, it results not only from the water deficit but also from other abiotic stress factors such as salt, temperature, heavy metals and UV radiation. In addition to the abiotic factors, herbivores, viruses, bacteria and fungi are biotic factors of leaf rolling. Leaf rolling is an effective protective mechanism from the effects of high light levels in agricultural fields and protects leaves of unirrigated plants from photodamage. The rolling reduces effective leaf area and transpiration, and thus is a potentially useful drought avoidance mechanism in dry areas. The current review focuses on the recent progress in understanding leaf rolling in relation to abiotic and biotic stress factors, the role of signal molecules, and the mechanisms of gene regulation. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.