The relative localization of ZO-1 and cingulin, the only two known components of the tight junction, was compared in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, chicken small intestine, rat kidney distal convoluted tubule, and a hepatoma cell line. Immunoblot analysis demonstrated that cingulin and ZO-1 are immunologically unrelated and that, in the colon, cingulin is a single polypeptide with a molecular mass of 140 kDa. Immunofluorescent localization of cingulin and ZO-1 in confluent monolayers of MDCK cells showed identical staining patterns. However, subconfluent MDCK cells showed distinct localizations of the two proteins. Both cingulin and ZO-1 were found at the plasma membrane only at areas of cell-cell contact, but cingulin was diffusely distributed within the cytoplasm, whereas ZO-1 showed a more clustered internal arrangement. Cingulin and ZO-1 were identically localized at the plasma membrane of hepatoma tissue culture (HTC) cells at sites of cell-cell contact. In chicken intestine examined at the ultrastructural level, immunogold particles associated with cingulin were found approximately three times farther from the junctional membrane than those affiliated with ZO-1.