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Auxin regulates numerous plant developmental processes by controlling gene expression via a family of functionally distinct DNA-binding auxin response factors (ARFs), yet the mechanistic basis for generating specificity in auxin response is unknown. Here, we address this question by solving high-resolution crystal structures of the pivotal Arabidopsis developmental regulator ARF5/MONOPTEROS (MP), its divergent paralog ARF1, and a complex of ARF1 and a generic auxin response DNA element (AuxRE). We show that ARF DNA-binding domains also homodimerize to generate cooperative DNA binding, which is critical for in vivo ARF5/MP function. Strikingly, DNA-contacting residues are conserved between ARFs, and we discover that monomers have the same intrinsic specificity. ARF1 and ARF5 homodimers, however, differ in spacing tolerated between binding sites.