The plant root tip represents a fascinating model system for studying changes in Golgi stack architecture associated with the developmental progression of meristematic cells to gravity sensing columella cells, and finally to "young" and "old", polysaccharide-slime secreting peripheral cells. To this end we have used high pressure freezing in conjunction with freeze-substitution techniques to follow developmental changes in the macromolecular organization of Golgi stacks in root tips of Arabidopsis and Nicotiana. Due to the much improved structural preservation of all cells under investigation, our electron micrographs reveal both several novel structural features common to all Golgi stacks, as well as characteristic differences in morphology between Golgi stacks of different cell types. Common to all Golgi stacks are clear and discrete differences in staining patterns and width of cis, medial and trans cisternae. Cis cisternae have the widest lumina (approximately 30 nm) and are the least stained. Medial cisternae are narrower (approximately 20 nm) and filled with more darkly staining products. Most trans cisternae possess a completely collapsed lumen in their central domain, giving rise to a 4-6 nm wide dark line in cross-sectional views. Numerous vesicles associated with the cisternal margins carry a non-clathrin type of coat. A trans Golgi network with clathrin coated vesicles is associated with all Golgi stacks except those of old peripheral cells. It is easily distinguished from trans cisternae by its blebbing morphology and staining pattern. The zone of ribosome exclusion includes both the Golgi stack and the trans Golgi network. Intercisternal elements are located exclusively between trans cisternae of columella and peripheral cells, but not meristematic cells. In older peripheral cells only trans cisternae exhibit slime-related staining. Golgi stacks possessing intercisternal elements also contain parallel rows of freeze-fracture particles in their trans cisternal membranes. We propose that intercisternal elements serve as anchors of enzyme complexes involved in the synthesis of polysaccharide slime molecules to prevent the complexes from being dragged into the forming secretory vesicles by the very large slime molecules. In addition, we draw attention to the similarities in composition and apparent site of synthesis of xyloglucans and slime molecules.