K1 is a murine monoclonal antibody (MAb) derived from a hybridoma generated by the fusion of splenocytes of BALB/c mice immunized with a human ovarian tumor cell line, OVCAR-3. This antibody reacts strongly with epithelial ovarian tumors and mesotheliomas. The antigen recognized by MAb K1, designated CAK1, has recently been characterized as a 40-kDa protein probably anchored to the cell surface by glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol. Using immunoperoxidase histochemical methods, we examined 37 squamous-cell carcinoma (SqCC) samples from cervix, lung, esophagus and other origins, and 12 normal squamous epithelia of the cervix and esophagus for their reactivity with MAb K1. Of the SqCC specimens, 81% showed K1 reactivity with variable intensity, but none of 12 normal tissue samples of squamous epithelia did so. Two patterns of CAK1 expression in tumor samples were found, i.e., a heterogeneous pattern with strong intensity, and a homogeneous pattern with weak intensity. Three carcinomas in situ of the larynx, vulva and esophagus were moderately positive with K1, suggesting that CAK1 antigen may occur in the early stage of carcinogenesis of SqCC. The expression of CAK1 was also compared with expression of CA125, HER-2/neu, p53 and P-glycoprotein, and MAb K1 was found to react most consistently with SqCC. Since K1 reacts with a majority of cervical and esophageal carcinomas but has no detectable reactivity in normal epithelia of the cervix uteri and esophagus, MAb K1 could be of value as a reagent to help distinguish between normal and neoplastic cells on sections as well as in cytological samples.