Specific antibodies against the C-terminus of E2, produced by affinity purification of polyclonal antisera, have been used to identify the cellular populations which express the HPV 16 E2 transcription factor, in a series of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cervical tissues. Cases were selected for both the presence of HPV 16 DNA (confirmed by multiple gene-specific PCR detections) and the presence of multiple grades of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). The data indicate that E2 expression is highest in CIN I and in koilocytic lesions. Lower expression was observed in CIN II and little in CIN III lesions. In contrast, there was some restoration of E2 expression in invasive carcinomas, although the intracellular distribution was much more diffuse. The location of E2 expression to the superficial layers of the cervical epithelium, as well as the occurrence of some basal expression in CIN I, suggests that antibodies against HPV 16 E2 could be a useful adjunct to standard histological techniques for the detection of 'at-risk' patients as part of a cervical screening programme.