Ethylene plays essential roles during adaptive responses to water-saturating environments in rice, but knowledge of its signaling mechanism remains limited. Here, through an analysis of a rice ethylene-response mutant mhz1, we show that MHZ1 positively modulates root ethylene responses. MHZ1 encodes the rice histidine kinase OsHK1. MHZ1/OsHK1 is autophosphorylated at a conserved histidine residue and can transfer the phosphoryl signal to the response regulator OsRR21 via the phosphotransfer proteins OsAHP1/2. This phosphorelay pathway is required for root ethylene responses. Ethylene receptor OsERS2, via its GAF domain, physically interacts with MHZ1/OsHK1 and inhibits its kinase activity. Genetic analyses suggest that MHZ1/OsHK1 acts at the level of ethylene perception and works together with the OsEIN2-mediated pathway to regulate root growth. Our results suggest that MHZ1/OsHK1 mediates the ethylene response partially independently of OsEIN2, and is directly inhibited by ethylene receptors, thus revealing mechanistic details of ethylene signaling for root growth regulation.