NY-ESO-1 gene encodes a novel member of the cancer/testis (CT) family of human tumour-associated antigens (TAA). Specific monoclonal antibodies (mAb) have identified the corresponding gene product in lysates of tumour cell lines as a 22 kDa protein but no data are available concerning its intracellular location or distribution within neoplastic tissues. We have generated NY-ESO-1 specific mAbs recognizing the target molecule in cytospin preparations and in sections from clinical tumour specimens. These reagents identify NY-ESO-1 TAA in melanoma cell lines expressing the specific gene as a cytoplasmic protein, sharing the intracellular location of most MAGE TAA. In a series of 12 melanoma specimens, specific staining, limited to neoplastic cells, was detectable in the five cases where NY-ESO-1 gene expression was observed. In two of them over 90% of tumour cells showed evidence of positive staining. Lower percentages of positive neoplastic cells ranging between single cells and 50% were observed in the remaining tumours. These data suggest that active specific immunotherapies targeting NY-ESO-1, alone or in combination with other TAA could be of high clinical relevance in sizeable subgroups of melanoma patients.