Antibodies to individual chloroplast ribosomal (r-)proteins of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii synthesized in either the chloroplast or the cytoplasm were used to examine the relatedness of Chlamydomonas r-proteins to r-proteins from the spinach (Spinacia oleracea) chloroplast, Escherichia coli, and the cyanobacterium Anabaena 7120. In addition, 35S-labeled chloroplast r-proteins from large and small subunits of C. reinhardtii were co-electrophoresed on 2-D gels with unlabeled r-proteins from similar subunits of spinach chloroplasts, E. coli, and Anabaena to compare their size and net charge. Comigrating protein pairs were not always immunologically related, whereas immunologically related r-protein pairs often did not comigrate but differed only slightly in charge and molecular weight. In contrast, when 35S-labeled chloroplast r-proteins from large and small subunits of a closely related species C. smithii were coelectrophoresed with unlabeled C. reinhardtii chloroplast r-proteins, only one pair of proteins from each subunit showed a net displacement in mobility. Analysis of immunoblots of one-dimensional SDS and two-dimensional urea/SDS gels of large and small subunit r-proteins from these species revealed more antigenic conservation among the four species of large subunit r-proteins than small subunit r-proteins. Anabaena r-proteins showed the greatest immunological similarity to C. reinhardtii chloroplast r-proteins. In general, antisera made against chloroplast-synthesized r-proteins in C. reinhardtii showed much higher levels of cross-reactivity with r-proteins from Anabaena, spinach, and E. coli than did antisera to cytoplasmically synthesized r-proteins. All spinach r-proteins that cross-reacted with antisera to chloroplast-synthesized r-proteins of C. reinhardtii are known to be made in the chloroplast (Dorne et al. 1984b). Four E. coli r-proteins encoded by the S10 operon (L2, S3, L16, and L23) were found to be conserved immunologically among the four species. Two of the large subunit r-proteins, L2 and L16, are essential for peptidyltransferase activity. The third (L23) and two other E. coli large subunit r-proteins (L5 and L27) that have immunological equivalents among the four species are functionally related to but not essential for peptidyltransferase activity.