Immunohistochemical techniques were used to determine the distribution and cellular location of the mature and precursor forms of a colonic-type mucin in normal and malignant epithelial tissues. The antisera used in this study were prepared against native human colon cancer mucin (LS), partially deglycosylated mucin (HFA or GalNAc-apomucin), and fully deglycosylated mucin (HFB or apomucin). These antisera reacted with most mucin-producing cells of the normal gastrointestinal tract, salivary ductular cells, bronchial epithelial cells, some bronchial mucous glands, and squamous epithelial cells of the esophagus. Breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate, liver, and thyroid were nonreactive. In most normal organs, HFB reactivity was present in the supranuclear and perinuclear cytoplasm and LS and HFA were located primarily in goblet cell vacuoles, apical cytoplasm, and luminal secretions. These findings are consistent with the expected subcellular locations of apomucin and more "mature" mucins. LS, HFA, and HFB were frequently expressed in adenocarcinomas of the colon, stomach, pancreas, and lung. Lymphoma, sarcoma, and melanoma specimens were nonreactive. Alterations in the expression of these mucin antigens in malignant tissues included loss of subcellular compartmentalization, increased intensity of staining, and disappearance of staining. In addition, de novo expression of HFB was observed in one of five breast carcinomas and three of five ovarian mucinous cystadenocarcinomas. These data demonstrate that LS, HFA, and HFB are useful for studying the organ specificities and biosynthetic pathways of one type of mucin in normal and malignant tissues.