To gain information on the mechanisms involved in the establishment and maintenance of subcellular gradients of Na, K, Cl and other elements in the flagellate, Euglena gracilis, we turned to the technique of ultracentrifugal stratification of its intracellular contents, which is achieved without loss of viability or cell rupture. Stratified and non-stratified Euglena were cryofixed for energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis of Na, K, Cl and other elements in thin freeze-dried cryosections. A number of significant elemental concentration differences (expressed as mmol kg-1 dry weight) were found between chloroplast, nucleus, paramylon granules and open cytoplasm (which contained ribosomes, membranes and macromolecules associated with the cytomatrix) in the non-stratified cells. Stratification caused several ions to be redistributed. For example, we observed a significant increase in K and Cl in the nucleus, which was correlated with the condensation of chromatin. Also Cl, but not Na, decreased significantly in the region of cytoplasm that was cleared of observable ribosomes, membranes and macromolecules associated with the cytomatrix, as well as of observable cytochemical enzyme activity. We conclude from the data that more than half of the Cl in open cytoplasm was adsorbed to or entrapped in material that was removed by ultracentrifugation. Thus, it appears that a close association of at least one ion, Cl, with ultracentrifugable material is involved in maintenance of the measured Cl concentration in the open cytoplasm of the non-stratified cell.