The staining pattern of a monoclonal antibody directed to the monomorphic determinant of HLA-DR antigens was examined on sections of human mammary gland tissues at various stages of differentiation as well as on 50 benign and 72 malignant breast lesions. Normal resting breast epithelium lacked HLA-DR, whereas late-pregnant and lactating epithelia expressed high levels of HLA-DR antigens, followed by a decline in the post-weaning regression period. Most benign breast lesions revealed heterogeneous staining ranging from very few up to 20-25% positive epithelial Greater variability was observed among carcinomas, where a small group (approximately 7%) of cases showing 40-95% positive tumour cells was found, in addition to negative tumours and those with the minority of HLA-DR expressing carcinoma cells. The density of the leukocytic infiltrate was higher in carcinomas than in either normal breast tissue or benign lesions, the HLA-DR phenotype of the mononuclear infiltrating cells lacking any obvious correlation with the HLA-DR status of the epithelial component. Immunoblotting analyses of whole-tissue lysates separated by SDS-PAGE confirmed the immunohistochemical data and demonstrated the reactivity with only one protein band predicted for HLA-DR alpha-chain. The combination of immunohistochemistry and autoradiography on sections of human reduction mammoplasty organoids cultured in collagen gels and labelled with tritiated thymidine revealed a lack of HLA-DR expression on proliferating breast epithelial cells suggesting factors other than cell kinetics must be responsible for induction of HLA-DR antigens seen in pregnant and lactating breast epithelium and some tumours.