We have established and partially characterized a panel of monoclonal antibodies against alpha-DNA polymerase. One of the hybridomas, clone 5F, has been exploited for cell kinetic studies on three colon cancer cell lines, LOVO, SW 620, and SW 403, which are endowed with different growth patterns and differentiation status. By an immunoperoxidase method, we could demonstrate the specific intranuclear localization of alpha-DNA polymerase during the exponential phase of in vitro growth and contrast it with the diffuse distribution of the enzyme throughout the cytoplasm during the resting state. The percentage of intranuclear staining positive cells, evaluated at successive time points of in vitro growth, changed from 75 to 95% (assayed on Days 3 and 7) to 15 to 25% in confluent and resting populations assayed on Days 12 to 14. In agreement with the assumption that the enzyme moves from nucleus to cytoplasm after entering quiescence, alpha-DNA polymerase was still present in the cytoplasm or in the cytoplasmic perinuclear area of cells in resting phase cultures. Comparisons between traditional kinetic parameters (thymidine labeling index and primer-dependent alpha-DNA polymerase) and proliferative state determined by the monoclonal antibody supported the feasibility of this approach to define the proportion of actively proliferating elements in a tumor cell population. Moreover, parallel flow cytometric analysis performed on Days 5 and 14 of continuous culture showed fluctuations of alpha-DNA polymerase content in relation to exponential and steady-state phases, with a significant increase in the amount of alpha-DNA polymerase in actively proliferating populations and a progressive reduction of the enzyme as the cultures entered the resting stage.