A hybridoma secreting a monoclonal antibody (H-20) that recognizes the 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine(m3G)-containing cap structure of U snRNAs was derived from a mouse which was immunized with a m3G-containing human serum albumin conjugate. The antibody specifically reacts with intact small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles, U snRNPs, and allows the snRNPs U1 to U6 to be isolated in one step from nuclear extracts of eucaryotic cells by affinity chromatography on a preparative scale. Antibody-bound snRNPs are desorbed from the affinity column by elution with excess of the cross-reactive nucleoside 7-methylguanosine (m7G), which guarantees maintenance of their native structure. The 20 affinity column also allows the snRNPs U1, U2 and U5 to be separated from U4/U6 RNPs by sequential elution of the particles with m7G under differential salt concentrations. As determined by competitive radioimmunoassay and protein-A--Sepharose immunoprecipitation, mAb H-20 crossreacts with intact m7G cap structures. In particular we could show that non-denatured m7G-capped SP6/beta-globin RNA was precipitated efficiently by the antibody while GpppG-capped or non-capped RNAs did not react. Thus the monoclonal antibody H-20 should have a wide application, not only for studying the molecular biology and immunology of the U snRNPs from diverse organisms, but also for the characterization and isolation of m7G-capped transcripts.