Studies were undertaken to define the expression of cytokeratins in normal, hyperplastic and malignant epithelial cells from human prostate. Cytokeratin (CK) polypeptides, separated by two-dimensional electrophoresis, were identified by immunoblotting with CK-specific monoclonal antibodies. CK polypeptides 5, 7, 8, 15, 18 and 19 were identified in fresh normal and hyperplastic prostate. Expression of CK 15 has not been previously reported in human prostate. Analysis of central and peripheral zone tissues from human prostate did not reveal qualitative differences in CK expression between these areas. Epithelial cells harvested from fresh BPH tissue by percoll gradient centrifugation and propagated in vitro using selective culture techniques showed alterations in CK expression compared to intact human prostate. Specifically, CKs 6, 14, 16 and 17 were noted in cultured BPH epithelial cells but not fresh normal prostate or BPH tissue. Immunoblot analysis of the established prostate cancer cell lines PC3, DU145 and LNCAP showed expression of CKs 8 and 18 but not CKs 5, 7 and 15 which were observed in benign prostate. These studies further characterize CK expression in benign and malignant human prostate and provide insights which may be useful in differentiating normal, hyperplastic and malignant epithelial cells in the human prostate gland.