Caryopses of rice (Oryza sativa L. cv. Sasanishiki) were germinated in air or under water. In submerged seedlings a twofold increase in coleoptile growth rate and an inhibition of root growth was observed. The amount of starch in the amyloplasts of submerged coleoptiles was substantially reduced compared to the air-grown control plants and plastids had a proplastidic character. During the rapid elongation of coleoptiles under water, the osmotic concentration of the press sap remained constant, whereas in air-grown coleoptiles a decrease was measured. Determination of curvature of gravistimulated air-grown and submerged shoots was carried out by placing the coleoptiles horizontally in air of 98% relative humidity. Air-grown coleoptiles reached a vertical orientation within 5 h after onset of gravistimulation. In coleoptiles germinated under water the first signs of consistent negative gravitropic bending occurred after 4-5 h and curvature was complete after 24 h. During the first 5 h of gravistimulation the water-grown coleoptiles grew at an average rate of 0.39 mm h-1, whereas in air-grown coleoptiles a rate of 0.27 mm h-1 was measured. Concomitant with the delayed onset of gravitropic bending of the water-grown coleoptiles, a change in plastid ultrastructure and an increase in starch content was observed. We conclude that the gravitropic responsiveness of the rice coleoptile depends on the presence of starch-filled amyloplasts.