The kinetics of MT [microtubule] reorientation in primary roots of Zea mays cv. Merit, were examined 15, 30, 45, and 60 min after horizontal positioning. Confocal microscopy of longitudinal tissue sections showed no change in MT orientation 15 and 30 min after horizontal placement. However, after 45 and 60 min, MTs of the outer 4-5 cortical cell layers along the lower side were reoriented. In order to test whether MT reorientation during graviresponse is caused by an auxin gradient, we examined the organization of MTs in roots that were incubated for 1 h in solutions containing 10(-9) to 10(-6) M IAA. IAA treatment at 10(-8) M or less showed no major or consistent changes but 10(-7) M IAA resulted in MT reorientation in the cortex. The auxin effect does not appear to be acid-induced since benzoic acid (10(-5) M) did not cause MT reorientation. The region closest to the maturation zone was most sensitive to IAA. The data indicate that early stages of gravity induced curvature occur in the absence of MT reorientation but sustained curvature leads to reoriented MTs in the outer cortex. Growth inhibition along the lower side of graviresponding roots appears to result from asymmetric distribution of auxin following gravistimulation.