Primary cultures of dissociated embryonic day 18 rat cerebral cortices were labelled by immunofluorescence with antibodies directed either against phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated MAP 1B (antibody 81) or against phosphorylated MAP 1B (antibody 150). Both antibodies stain cortical neurons, including their neurites and growth cones, in early (18 h) cultures, whereas only antibody 81 stained glial cells. By 4 days in culture, phosphorylated MAP 1B is largely restricted to axonal processes and growth cones, where it is often distributed in a gradient that is highest distally. In axonal processes and growth cones after 18 h and 4 days in culture, the phosphorylated form of MAP 1B is present both in a soluble form and bound to microtubules. Growth cones isolated from postnatal day 5 rat forebrain were labelled in vitro with 32P-orthophosphate and detergent soluble and insoluble (cytoskeleton) fractions prepared. SDS-PAGE analysis revealed several major phosphoproteins in isolated growth cone cytoskeletons, including MAP 1B. Phosphorylated MAP 1B was also present in the detergent soluble fraction of growth cones. Immunoblotting and immunoprecipitation with MAP 1B antibodies confirmed the identification of MAP 1B and that the protein is phosphorylated in growth cones. These data show that MAP 1B, in particular the phosphorylated isoform, is present in growth cones and suggest that phosphorylation of MAP 1B may play an important role in neurite elongation.