Guinea pig antibodies against desmoplakins from bovine muzzle epidermis showed specific reaction in several epithelial tissues with desmoplakin I (Mr 250,000) and desmoplakin II (Mr 215,000). By immunofluorescence microscopy, prominent punctate staining was observed in various lines of cultured epithelial cells, revealing desmosomal junctions at sites of established cell-to-cell contacts as well as hemidesmosomes and internalized desmosome-derived membrane domains. On frozen tissue sections punctate staining was observed along plasma membranes of epithelial cells, and electron microscopy using the immunoperoxidase technique revealed that the antibodies were specifically localized at the plaques associated with desmosomes and hemidesmosomes. Of a large number of non-epithelial cells examined positive staining was only observed on desmosome-like junctions of myocardial cells and Purkinje fiber cells. In both epithelial and myocardial tissues the antibodies showed a broad range of cross-reactivity between diverse vertebrate species such as man, cow, rodent, and chicken, indicating that desmoplakins contain determinants strongly conserved during evolution. When binding of these antibodies to cytoskeletal polypeptides separated by gel electrophoresis and blotted on nitrocellulose paper sheets was examined, specific reaction was noted with desmoplakin I and, to a variable degree, also desmoplakin II from various epithelial cells. Reaction was also observed with a myocardial polypeptide from bovine and human hearts which had a similar Mr value (250,000) and isoelectric pH range as desmoplakin I. We conclude that desmoplakins are the major proteins present in the desmosomal plaques of both epithelial and myocardial cells and that the desmoplakin polypeptides present in these two different cell types are very similar, if not identical.