Two modifications to Western blots which enhance immunochemical recognition have been developed. The first is transfer in carbonate buffer at pH 9.9, rather than the more commonly used Tris-glycine buffer at pH 8.3. This alteration improved the recognition of four of the five subunits of Escherichia coli F1-ATPase by monoclonal antibodies, the smaller subunits showing the greatest effects. Recognition of dinitrophenyl groups attached to the subunits by polyclonal antibodies was improved by the carbonate buffer only for the smallest ATPase subunit, epsilon. The second modification was incubation of the gel in mild buffers, designed to promote the renaturation of proteins, before the electrophoretic transfer step. The most effective buffer was 20% glycerol in 50 mM Tris-HCl, pH 7.4. Improvements in the signal obtained with monoclonal antibodies to all the subunits of ATPase were obtained by this procedure. As the subunits vary markedly in size, isoelectric point, and other properties, this method should be useful for most proteins. The fate of the 15,000-Da epsilon subunit, labeled with 125I, was followed through a blotting experiment. As long as no sodium dodecyl sulfate was added to the transfer buffer, epsilon was bound to nitrocellulose efficiently in either Tris-glycine or carbonate buffer. However, the epsilon was retained much more strongly during the subsequent incubation steps if the transfer was done in the carbonate buffer. The binding of epsilon to the nitrocellulose was even more stable when the gel had been treated with the buffered glycerol solution before transfer. These results indicate that the conditions under which epsilon subunit first encounters the nitrocellulose markedly affect the stability of binding during subsequent steps. The F1-ATPase was partially fragmented by treatment with proteases and then run on a gel and either transferred immediately in Tris-glycine buffer or else treated with the buffered glycerol solution and transferred in the carbonate buffer. The second blot gave stronger recognition of residual alpha subunit and fragments by an anti-alpha monoclonal antibody, with the largest improvement for the smaller fragments. This result suggests that the modified procedure may be particularly useful in enhancing the detection of small proteins.