A monoclonal antibody (MAb) 81D1c2, which recognizes the N epsilon (gamma glutamyl) lysine isopeptide produced by the action of transglutaminase activity was prepared. Its reactivity towards the homologous isopeptide was about 3-fold greater than that with either N alpha (alpha glutamyl) lysine (a naturally occurring heterologous dipeptide) or N alpha (gamma glutamyl) lysine, another heterologous peptide not described so far in naturally occurring proteins. When used in an immunohistochemical study on cells in culture derived from human carcinoma of the larynx (HEp2) and from chicken embryo cells (CEC), both fixed in acetone, this MAb detected N epsilon (gamma glutamyl) lysine residues in the nucleus. The amount of N epsilon (gamma glutamyl) lysine isopeptides follows closely transglutaminase activity during the lag phase of growth of both CEC and HEp2 cells. However, during exponential growth, the 2 parameters decrease concomitantly in HEp2 cells, whereas in CEC, transglutaminase activity increases but isopeptide bond levels drop. Compared with other reported methods for measuring isopeptides, this immunohistological approach permits the localization and at least the semi-quantitative determination of N epsilon (gamma glutamyl) lysine in cells in situ.