The involvement of ethylene in root architectural responses to phosphorus availability was investigated in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) plants grown with sufficient and deficient phosphorus. Although phosphorus deficiency reduced root mass and lateral root number, main root length was unchanged by phosphorus treatment. This resulted in decreased lateral root density in phosphorus-deficient plants. The possible involvement of ethylene in growth responses to phosphorus deficiency was investigated by inhibiting endogenous ethylene production with amino-ethoxyvinylglycine (AVG) and aerating the root system with various concentrations of ethylene. Phosphorus deficiency doubled the root-to-shoot ratio, an effect which was suppressed by AVG and partially restored by exogenous ethylene. AVG increased lateral root density in phosphorus- deficient plants but reduced it in phosphorus-sufficient plants. These responses could be reversed by exogenous ethylene, suggesting ethylene involvement in the regulation of main root extension and lateral root spacing. Phosphorus-deficient roots produced twice as much ethylene per g dry matter as phosphorus-sufficient roots. Enhanced ethylene production and altered ethylene sensitivity in phosphorus-deficient plants may be responsible for root responses to phosphorus deficiency.