The monoclonal antibody, Tau-1, which had previously been used to localize tau to the axonal compartment in brain has been reutilized for light and electron microscopic immunohistochemistry following phosphatase treatment of tissue. We report here that a significant quantity of tau in the central nervous system is phosphorylated in situ at or near the Tau-1 epitope, preventing the binding of the Tau-1 antibody. Upon removal of this/these phosphate group(s), however, Tau-1 was observed in the somatodendritic compartment of neurons as well as in axons. Furthermore, intense staining was also observed in astrocytes and in perineuronal glial cells. This immunoreactivity was present along the lengths of microtubules and on ribosomes (polysomes). Treatment of immunoblots of extracts of whole cerebral cortex with phosphatase confirmed the immunohistochemical results in that a 50-65% increase in Tau-1 binding to the tau region of the blot was noted. Moreover, a novel monoclonal antibody, Tau-2, was also used in these experiments. This antibody binds only to tau and localizes along microtubules in axons, somata, dendrites, and astrocytes and on ribosomes (polysomes) without phosphatase pretreatment.