The distribution of plectin in the cytoplasm of Rat1 and glioma C6 cells was examined using a combination of double and triple immunofluorescence microscopy and interference reflection microscopy. In cells examined shortly after subcultivation (less than 48 h), filamentous networks of plectin structures, resembling and partially colocalizing with vimentin filaments, were observed as reported in previous studies. In cells kept attached to the substrate without growth for periods of 72 h to 8 days (stationary cultures), thick fibrillary plectin structures were observed. These structures were located at the end of actin filament bundles and showed co-distribution with adhesion plaques (focal contacts), vinculin, and vimentin. Only relatively large adhesion plaques (dash-like contacts) were decorated by antibodies to plectin, smaller dot-like contacts at the cell edges remained undecorated. Moreover, in stationary Rat1 cells plectin structures were found to be predominantly colocalized with actin stress fibers. However, after treatment of such cells with colcemid, plectin's distribution changed dramatically. The protein was no longer associated with actin structures, but was distributed diffusely throughout the cytoplasm. After a similar treatment with cytochalasin B, plectin's association with stress fibers again was completely abolished, although stress fibers were still present. The association of plectin with focal contact-associated intermediate filaments was demonstrated also by immunogold electron microscopy of quick-frozen, deep-etched replicas of rat embryo fibroblasts. These data confirm previous reports suggesting a relationship between intermediate filaments on the one hand, and actin stress fibers and their associated plasma membrane junctional complexes, on the other. Furthermore, the data establish plectin as a novel component of focal contact complexes and suggest that plectin plays a role as mediator between intermediate filaments and actin filaments.