The inter- and intracellular distribution of phosphate in non-mycorrhizal and ectomycorrhizal roots of Pinus sylvestris was analysed by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy after cryofixation, freeze-drying, pressure infiltration with resin and dry cutting of the material. The results show (1) that in non-mycorrhizal roots the distribution of phosphate across the root cross section is relatively homogenous, (2) that the intracellular distribution of phosphate depends on the external supply, and (3) that the phosphate absorption can be increased by a supply of NH4. Under phosphate starvation, the phosphate is mainly localized in the cell cytoplasm, whereas under high external phosphate this element accumulates in the vacuoles of cortical cells. It can be inferred that at low external conditions phosphate is mainly located in the cytoplasm of cells to protect metabolism from deficiency, that phosphate is translocated to the shoot via symplastic and apoplastic pathways, and that especially the vacuolar pool size is regulated by the external phosphate supply. The nutrition of the host plant under phosphate starvation was improved by a mycorrhizal infection with Suillus bovinus. However, this effect might not be the same for all ectomycorrhizal infections and supply conditions. With high external phosphate an ectomycorrhizal infection with S. bovinus had no effect on intracellular phosphate within the roots, the shoot contents of mycorrhizal plants were less than those of non-mycorrhizal seedlings and translocation rate across the mycorrhizal interface appeared to be independent of the availability of phosphate. Intracellular phosphate in fungal cells of mycorrhizal roots was independent of the external supply and seemed to be regulated by the formation of polyphosphates. A supply of (NH4)2HPO4, which led to an increase in cytoplasmic phosphate levels in the hyphae of the Hartig net of the Paxillus involutus mycorrhiza also led to higher phosphate in the plant cell compartments. Therefore, it can be inferred that the translocation of phosphate from fungus to host plant across the mycorrhizal interface is regulated by the phosphate concentration in the cytoplasm of the Hartig net and by the efflux rate into the interfacial apoplast.