Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is very versatile owing to a large number of regulatory subunits and its ability to interact with numerous other proteins. The regulatory A subunit exists as two closely related isoforms designated Aalpha and Abeta. Mutations have been found in both isoforms in a variety of human cancers. Although Aalpha has been intensely studied, little is known about Abeta. We generated Abeta-specific antibodies and determined the cell cycle expression, subcellular distribution, and metabolic stability of Abeta in comparison with Aalpha. Both forms were expressed at constant levels throughout the cell cycle, but Aalpha was expressed at a much higher level than Abeta. Both forms were found predominantly in the cytoplasm, and both had a half-life of approx. 10 h. However, Aalpha and Abeta differed substantially in their expression patterns in normal tissues and in tumour cell lines. Whereas Aalpha was expressed at similarly high levels in all tissues and cell lines, Abeta expression varied greatly. In addition, in vivo studies with epitope-tagged Aalpha and Abeta subunits demonstrated that Abeta is a markedly weaker binder of regulatory B and catalytic C subunits than Aalpha. Construction of phylogenetic trees revealed that the conservation of Aalpha during the evolution of mammals is extraordinarily high in comparison with both Abeta and cytochrome c, suggesting that Aalpha is involved in more protein-protein interactions than Abeta. We also measured the binding of polyoma virus middle tumour antigen and simian virus 40 (SV40) small tumour antigen to Aalpha and Abeta. Whereas both isoforms bound polyoma virus middle tumour antigen equally well, only Aalpha bound SV40 small tumour antigen.