The purpose of the investigations was to correlate the apparent ability of beryllium to substitute for magnesium in plant growth with a specific biochemical effect of the metal. Through association with earlier work on beryllium inhibition of animal alkaline phosphatase, a study was made of the effect of beryllium and other metals upon the activity of a phosphatase derived from tomato leaves. Although only indirect evidence is available that this enzyme system was magnesium-activated, beryllium was found to inhibit reversibly the splitting of GP and ATP. Other metals were also found to be inhibitory but the ATP-ase inhibition - and especially the ratio of P split from GP to P split from ATP - was higher for beryllium than for any other metal studied. The significance of this finding in relation to energy metabolism, growth, and beryllium toxicity is discussed. 12 references, 5 figures, 2 tables.