Environmental stresses commonly encountered by plants lead to rapid transient elevations in cytosolic free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]cyt) (Bush, 1995; Knight et al., 1991). These cellular calcium (Ca2+) signals lead ultimately to the increased expression of stress-responsive genes, including those encoding proteins of protective function (Knight et al., 1996; Knight et al., 1997). The kinetics and magnitude of the Ca2+ signal, or 'calcium signature', differ between different stimuli and are thought to contribute to the specificity of the end response (Dolmetsch et al., 1997; McAinsh and Hetherington, 1998). We measured [Ca2+]cyt changes during treatment with mannitol (to mimic drought stress) in whole intact seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana. The responses of plants which were previously exposed to osmotic and oxidative stresses were compared to those of control plants. We show here that osmotic stress-induced Ca2+ responses can be markedly altered by previous encounters with either osmotic or oxidative stress. The nature of the alterations in Ca2+ response depends on the identity and severity of the previous stress: oxidative stress pre-treatment reduced the mannitol-induced [Ca2+]cyt response whereas osmotic stress pretreatment increased the [Ca2+]cyt response. Therefore, our data show that different combinations of environmental stress can produce novel Ca2+ signal outputs. These alterations are accompanied by corresponding changes in the patterns of osmotic stress-induced gene expression and, in the case of osmotic stress pre-treatment, the acquisition of stress-tolerance. This suggests that altered Ca2+ responses encode a 'memory' of previous stress encounters and thus may perhaps be involved in acclimation to environmental stresses.