Antigen, lymphocytes, and accessory cells interact within peripheral lymphoid organs to generate immunity. Two cell types have been studied for accessory function in culture: mononuclear phagocytes and nonphagocytic Ia-rich dendritic cells. The monoclonal antibodies which have been used to study isolated murine macrophages (M phi) and dendritic cells (DC) include alpha-macrophage (F4/80, M1/70), alpha-dendritic cell (33D1), alpha-Fc receptor (2.4G2), and alpha-Ia (B21-2) reagents. In this paper, the antibodies have been used to stain accessory cells in cryostat sections of mouse spleen, lymph node, and Peyer's patch. Each organ is known to contain subregions that are rich in either macrophages, B cells, or T cells. We found that the accessory cells in each subregion had a different phenotype. 1) Macrophage-rich regions: Macrophages that lined the site of antigen delivery (marginal zone of spleen, around afferent lymphatics of node, and below the epithelium of Peyer's patch) were stained with M1/70 but not with F4/80. F4/80 was abundant on macrophages in other sites: spleen red pulp, node medulla, and around Peyer's patch efferent lymphatics. 2) B-lymphocyte-rich follicles: Follicular dendritic cells, which retain immune complexes extracellularly, are concentrated on the outer aspect of the germinal center. This region stained strongly with alpha-Fc receptor antibody 2.4G2, but not with M1/70, F4/80, or 33D1. 3) T areas: The interdigitating cells of T areas have been linked to isolated dendritic cells. Irregular Ia-rich cells were distributed uniformly in the T areas of each organ. However, staining with 33D1 was not detected and was restricted to foci of nonphagocytic cells at the spleen red/white pulp junction. F4/80, M1/70 or 2.4G2 also did not stain the T area, except for the region close to splenic central arteries. Therefore the principal surface markers and locations of the candidate accessory cells in murine lymphoid organs are M1/70+ macrophages at the site of antigen entry; F4/80+ macrophages around regions of lymphocyte efflux; germinal center dendritic cells, which may be rich in 2.4G2; and Ia-rich interdigiting cells in the T area.