Our previous studies showed that high salt tolerance in Tibetan wild barley accessions was associated with HvHKT1;1, a member of high-affinity potassium transporter family. However, molecular mechanisms of HvHKT1;1 for salt tolerance and its roles in K+/Na+ homeostasis remain to be elucidated. Functional characterization of HvHKT1;1 was conducted in the present study. NaCl-induced transcripts of HvHKT1;1 were significantly higher in the roots of Tibetan wild barley XZ16 relative to other genotypes, being closely associated with its higher biomass and lower tissue Na+ 36 content under salt stress. Heterologous expression of HvHKT1;1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) and Xenopus laevis oocytes showed that HvHKT1;1 had higher selectivity to Na+ over K+ and other monovalent cations. HvHKT1;1 was found to be localized at the cell plasma membrane of root stele and epidermis. Knock-down of HvHKT1;1 in barley led to higher Na+ accumulation in both roots and leaves while over-expression of HvHKT1;1 in salt-sensitive Arabidopsis hkt1-4 and sos1-12 loss-of-function lines resulted in significantly less shoot and root Na+ accumulation. Additionally, microelectrode ion flux measurements and root elongation assay revealed that the transgenic Arabidopsis plants exhibited a remarkable capacity in regulating Na+, K+, Ca2+ and H+ homeostasis under salt stress. These results indicate that HvHKT1;1 is critical in radial root Na+ transport, which eventually reduces shoot Na+ accumulation. Besides, HvHKT1;1 may be indirectly involved in retention of K+ and Ca2+ in root cells, which also improves plant salt tolerance.