Zinc as a micronutrient and cadmium as a nonessential toxic element share similar pathways for entering plant tissues and thus may be antagonistic. In nutrient solution culture, 17-day-old radish (Raphanus sativus L) plants were exposed to short-term (24 h) equimolar metal contamination (2.2 mu M of each Zn-70 and total Cd) to investigate the in situ Zn/Cd distribution in the apical root tissues using high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) imaging. Inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry analysis of bulk root tissue confirmed large root uptake of both metal elements. After 24-h exposure the total root concentration (in mu g/g DW) of Zn-70 was 180 +/- 24 (mean +/- SE) and of total Cd 352 +/- 11. NanoSIMS mapping was performed on the cross sections of the radish root apex as a crucial component in root growth and uptake of water and nutrients from soil. Elemental maps of Zn-70 and Cd-114 isotopes revealed greater enrichment of both metals in the outer epidermal root layer than in cortical tissues and especially stele, confirming the epidermal root cells as preferential sites of metal uptake, and indicating relatively slow and less-intensive metal transport into other parts (edible hypocotyl, shoot) of metal-sensitive radish. NanoSIMS has been confirmed as a powerful tool for spatial detection and visualisation of some ultra-trace metal isotopes (e.g. Zn-70) in the fast-growing root tips. However, precise (sub)cellular mapping of diffusible metallic ions (Cd, Zn) remains a technically-challenging task in plant specimens given an unavoidable compromise between optimising methodology for structural preservation vs. authentic in vivo ion localisation.