The antigen specificity of a rat monoclonal antibody TER-119 was investigated. In adult mice, TER-119 reacted with mature erythrocytes, 20-25% of bone marrow cells and 2-3% of spleen cells but not with thymocytes nor lymph node cells. In fetal haematopoietic tissues, 30-40% of d 10 yolk sac cells, 80-90% of d 14 fetal liver cells and 40-50% of newborn liver cells were reactive with TER-119. TER-119+ cells in adult bone marrow expressed significant levels of CD45 but not myeloid (Mac-1, Gr-1) or B-cell (B220) markers. Morphological examination and haematopoietic colony-forming assays for isolated TER-119+ cells revealed that TER-119 reacts with erythroid cells at differentiation stages from early proerythroblast to mature erythrocyte, but not with cells showing typical erythroid blast-forming unit (BFU-E) and erythroid colony-forming unit (CFU-E) activities. Erythroleukaemia cell lines do not express the TER-119 antigen even after stimulation with dimethylsulphoxide. TER-119 immunoprecipitated protein bands with molecular masses of 110 kDa, 60 kDa, 52 kDa and 32 kDa from erythrocyte membrane, whereas only a 52-kDa band was detected by TER-119 in Western blot analysis. Further molecular and cellular analyses indicated that the TER-119 antigen is a molecule associated with cell-surface glycophorin A but not with glycophorin A itself.