Polyclonal antibodies were raised which have a high affinity for conjugated ubiquitin. Immunocytochemistry was performed on paraffin sections of tissues showing well-characterized inclusion bodies. Ubiquitin was found as a component of the intermediate filament inclusion bodies characteristic of several major diseases including Lewy bodies of Parkinson's disease, Pick bodies of Pick's disease, Mallory bodies of alcoholic liver disease, cytoplasmic bodies of a specific myopathy, and Rosenthal fibres within astrocytes. Ubiquitin was also present in the three histological lesions characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. These observations suggest a fundamental role for ubiquitin in the formation of intermediate filament inclusion bodies in man, and have implications regarding the pathogenesis of these important diseases.