The antimonate precipitation technique was used to evaluate the effects of microgravity and ethylene on the cellular and subcellular distribution of free calcium ions in soybean root apices. Soybean (Glycine max L. [Merr.]) dry seeds were launched, activated by hydration, and germinated in the presence of KMnO4(to remove ethylene) and in its absence onboard the space shuttle Columbia during the STS-87 mission. Primary root apices of 6-day old seedlings were fixed for electron microscopy after landing. Ultrastructural studies indicated that antimonate precipitation appeared as individual electron-dense particles which were more or less round in shape and varied in diameter from 10 nm (minimum size beginning from which the particles were well identified) to 90 nm. It was revealed that analyzed root cap cells varied in both the precipitate particle sizes and the amount particles per unit of the cellular area. In both flight and ground control treatments, antimonate precipitation level increases from apical meristem cells to peripheral (secretory) cells of root apices. In root cap statocytes, subcellular localization of precipitate particles was revealed in the cytoplasm, nucleus and small vacuoles. The quantitative analysis showed a reduction of precipitate density in the cytoplasm and the nucleus, and an increase in precipitate density in the vacuoles from statocytes of both spaceflight treatments in comparison with ground controls. © 2001 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.