The formation of lamellipodia in migrating cells involves dynamic processes that occur in a cyclic manner as the leading edge of a cell slowly advances. We used video-enhanced contrast microscopy (VEC) to monitor the motile behavior of cells to classify protrusions into the temporal stages of initial and established protrusions (Fisher et al.: Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton 11:235-247, 1988), and to monitor the fixation of cells. Multiple parameter fluorescence imaging methods (DeBiasio et al.: Journal of Cell Biology 105:1613-1622, 1987; Waggoner et al.: Methods in Cell Biology, Vol. 30, Part B, pp. 449-478, 1989) were then used to determine and to map accurately the distributions of actin, myosin and microtubules in specific types of protrusions. Initial protrusions exhibited no substructure as evidenced by VEC and actin was diffusely arranged, while myosin and microtubules were absent. Newly established protrusions contained diffuse actin as well as actin in microspikes. There was a delay in the appearance of myosin into established protrusions relative to the presence of actin. Microtubules were found in established protrusions after myosin was detected, and they were oriented parallel to the direction of migration. Actin and myosin were also localized in fibers transverse to the direction of migration at the base of initial and established protrusions. Image analysis was used to quantify the orientation of actin fibers relative to the leading edge of motile cells. The combined use of VEC, multiple parameter immunofluorescence, and image analysis should have a major impact on defining complex relationships within cells.