The role of ethylene in the formation of lysigenous cortical cavities (aerenchyma) in seedling roots of Zea mays L. cv. Capella, has been studied under aerated and non-aerated conditions. Passing roots from air to aerated water or from an aerated nutrient solution to a non-aerated solution, promoted cavity formation and was accompanied by an increase of the endogenous ethylene concentration. When the endogenous ethylene concentration of roots in aerated nutrient solutions, which otherwise would not produce much cavities, was enhanced by applying ethylene gas (0.1 and 1.0 μl 1-1 in air) or the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane-1-car-boxylic acid, cavity formation was promoted. When, on the contrary, the endogenous ethylene concentration of the roots was reduced by adding the inhibitors of ethylene biosynthesis, cobalt ions and aminooxyacetic acid, or when the ethylene action was prevented by silver ions, cavity formation was prevented. It is concluded that endogenous ethylene controls the induction of cavity formation in the roots.