Three monoclonal antibodies against antigens that exist in the Caenorhabditis elegans germ line have previously been described. In the present study, a full-length mRNA for one of these antigens was isolated, and by sequencing its corresponding cDNA, it was predicted that the protein would show a high homology with the 90 kDa heat shock protein (HSP90) in other species, and with the protein of daf-21, a previously identified hsp90 homologue. The spatial and temporal distribution of the antigen (DAF-21) was analyzed in C. elegans, and the localization of daf-21 mRNA, as detected by in situ hybridization, agreed with that detected by the monoclonal antibody. Under normal conditions, daf-21 mRNA is characteristically distributed in postembryonic germ cells derived from Z2 and Z3 cells in both hermaphrodites and males. Under heat stress conditions, however, daf-21 mRNA was not only detected in germ cells, but also apparently expressed all over the body. In addition, the DAF-21 protein seemed to be localized in the perinuclear region of somatic cells.