Early effects of ionizing radiation were investigated in an experimental in vitro system using the ciliary cells of the tracheal mucous membrane of the rabbit, irradiated at 30/sup 0/C and at more than 90% humidity. The changes in physiological activities of the ciliary cells caused by irradation were continously registered during the irradation. The specimens were examined immediately after irradiation electron microscopically. The morphological changes in irradiated material after 10-70 Gy are compared with normal material. After 40-70 Gy, scanning electron microscopy revealed the formation of vesicles on cilia, and club-like protrusions and adhesion of their tips. After 30-70 Gy, a swelling of mitochondrial membranes and cristae was apparent transmission electron microscopically. The membrane alterations caused by irradiation are assumed to disturb the permeability and flow of ATP from the mitochondria, which in turn leads to the recorded changes in the activity of the ciliated cells.