We describe a staining technique, using Ponceau S in very mild conditions, by which proteins can be visualized on nitrocellulose replicas without being permanently fixed to the membrane itself, thus allowing subsequent procedures such as immunoblotting or preparative elution of the proteins to be performed. This staining technique can detect 250 to 500 ng protein, which is essentially the same sensitivity seen for Coomassie blue staining of proteins on nitrocellulose. The Ponceau S staining technique was used to locate proteins on nitrocellulose replicas for subsequent in situ radioiodination and trypsin digestion, followed by separation of the resultant digests in two-dimensional peptide analysis. Staining proteins with Ponceau S did not interfere with either the radioiodination or trypsin digestion, as indicated by essentially identical peptide patterns being obtained for the internal protein p26 from equine infectious anemia virus, regardless of whether the digests were prepared from polyacrylamide gel slices or nitrocellulose sections. The combination of preparation of radioiodinated tryptic digests on nitrocellulose and subsequent two-dimensional analysis is sensitive enough to detect peptide additions and deletions occurring in the surface antigen gp90 recovered from two antigenically distinct strains of equine infectious anemia virus. Thus these procedures provide a relatively simple, inexpensive, and highly reproducible technique for the analysis of as little as 250 nanograms of protein after separation by electrophoresis in polyacrylamide gels.