The expression of cytokeratin (CK) polypeptides was studied in 59 transitional cell carcinomas (TCC) of the urinary tract of different grade and stage. Using a panel of 14 polypeptide-specific monoclonal CK-antibodies we identified immunohistochemically 8 different CKs separately, ie, CKs 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 18, and 19, while in immunoblotting studies CK5 expression was detected indirectly by using the antibody RCK102, recognizing CK5 + 8. In low-grade TCCs (G1-G2), the CK distribution was comparable to that in normal urothelium, however with a variable expression of CK13 in the different tumors and a uniform distribution of CK7. In higher-grade TCCs (G3), a decrease in CK13 expression was observed, particularly in the areas of muscle invasion. Furthermore, the appearance and increasing expression of CK14 (not present in normal urothelium or G1 TCCs) with higher grade and stage was striking. With tumor progression changes in epitope configurations of CK8 and CK18 were detected, as concluded from immunohistochemical assays with the panel of monoclonal antibodies for each of these two CKs. In extreme cases this resulted in differential staining patterns of the invasive and noninvasive components within one tumor. In 7 of 32 G3 TCCs, some of which showed areas with evident squamous differentiation, a decrease in the expression of CK7 and/or CK8 was seen. We conclude that tumor progression in TCCs is associated with discrete changes of CK expression, which can be detected using monoclonal antibodies.