To investigate the distribution of proteinase 3, the target antigen of anti-cytoplasmic antibodies (ACPA or C-ANCA), within the organelles of resting normal human polymorphonuclear leukocytes and monocytes, the authors used immunocytochemical techniques on thin frozen sections. To obtain valuable tools for immunolabeling, two murine monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) directed against the ACPA antigen were produced. In neutrophils, the authors observed immunogold label for the ACPA antigen, predominantly in myeloperoxidase-positive azurophil granules, and in smaller amounts on the plasma membrane. In monocytes, the ACPA antigen could be detected in small granules, which occasionally also contained myeloperoxidase, and rare labeling was found on the monocyte membrane. The finding that the ACPA antigen is expressed on the plasma membrane of neutrophils and monocytes, thereby becoming accessible to circulating autoantibodies, supports the supposition that ACPA are not only markers of disease activity, but also are involved in the pathogenesis of Wegener's granulomatosis.