A plant-growth-promoting isolate of the yeast Williopsis saturnus endophytic in maize roots was found to be capable of producing indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) and indole-3-pyruvic acid (IPYA) in vitro in a chemically defined medium. It was selected from among 24 endophytic yeasts isolated from surface-disinfested maize roots and evaluated for their potential to produce IAA and to promote maize growth under gnotobiotic and glasshouse conditions. The addition of L-tryptophan (L-TRP), as a precursor for auxins, to the medium inoculated with W. saturnus enhanced the production of IAA and IPYA severalfold compared to an L-TRP-non-amended medium. The introduction of W. saturnus to maize seedlings by the pruned-root dip method significantly (P < 0.05) enhanced the growth of maize plants grown under gnotobiotic and glasshouse conditions in a soil amended with or without L-TRP. This was evident from the increases in the dry weights and lengths of roots and shoots and also in the significant (P < 0.05) increases in the levels of in planta IAA and IPYA compared with control plants grown in L-TRP-amended or non-amended soil. The plant growth promotion by W. saturnus was most pronounced in the presence of L-TRP as soil amendment compared to seedlings inoculated with W. saturnus and grown in soil not amended with L-TRP. In the glasshouse test, W. saturnus was recovered from inside the root at all samplings, up to 8 weeks after inoculation, indicating that the roots of healthy maize may be a habitat for the endophytic yeast. An endophytic isolate of Rhodotorula glutinis that was incapable of producing detectable levels of IAA or IPYA in vitro failed to increase the endogenous levels of IAA and IPYA and failed to promote plant growth compared to W. saturnus, although colonization of maize root tissues by R. glutinis was similar to that of W. saturnus. Both endophytic yeasts, W. saturnus and R. glutinis, were incapable of producing in vitro detectable levels of gibberellic acid, isopentenyl adenine, isopentenyl adenoside or zeatin in their culture filtrates. This study is the first published report to demonstrate the potential of an endophytic yeast to promote plant growth. This is also the first report of the production of auxins by yeasts endophytic in plant roots.