We have prepared three monoclonal antibodies against human epidermal keratins. These antibodies were highly specific for keratins and, in combination, recognized all major epidermal keratins of several mammalian species. We have used these antibodies to study the tissue distribution of epidermis-related keratins. In various mammalian epithelia, the antibodies recognized seven classes of keratins defined by their immunological reactivity and size. The 40, 46 and 52 kilodalton (kd) keratin classes were present in almost all epithelia; the 50 kd and 58 kd keratin classes were detected in all stratified squamous epithelia, but not in any simple epithelia; and the 56 kd and 65-67 kd keratin classes were unique to keratinized epidermis. Thus the expression of specific keratin classes appeared to correlate with different types of epithelial differentiation (simple versus stratified; keratinized versus nonkeratinized).