Transfer of visual information from photoreceptors to ganglion cells within the retina is mediated by specialized groups of bipolar cells. At least 10 different morphological types of bipolar cells have been distinguished in Golgi studies of primate retina. In the present study, bipolar cell populations in the macaque monkey retina were identified by their differential immunoreactivity to a spectrum of antibody markers. This enabled their spatial density and photoreceptor connections to be analysed. An antibody against the beta isozyme of protein kinase C (PKCA beta) labelled many cone bipolar cells. Invaginating (presumed ON) cone bipolar cells and rod bipolar cells were preferentially labelled with a monoclonal antibody raised against rabbit olfactory bulb. Flat (presumed OFF) bipolar cells were labelled with an antiserum against the glutamate transporter protein (GLT-1). Different populations of diffuse cone bipolar cells, which contact 5-10 cones, could be distinguished. The GLT-1 antiserum preferentially labelled the flat diffuse bipolar cell type DB2 (Boycott and Wässle, 1991, Eur. J. Neurosci. 3:1069-1088) as well as flat midget bipolar cells. Antibodies to calbindin (CaBP D-28K) labelled the flat diffuse bipolar cell type DB3 and (possibly) the invaginating diffuse bipolar cell type DB5. An antibody against the alpha isozyme of PKC labelled an invaginating diffuse bipolar cell type (DB4) as well as rod bipolar cells. Comparison of the spatial density of cone bipolar cell populations with that of photoreceptors suggests that each bipolar cell class provides a complete coverage of the cone array (each cone is contacted by at least one member of every bipolar cell class). These results support the classification scheme of Boycott and Wässle (1991) by showing that different diffuse bipolar cell classes express different patterns of immunoreactivity, and they reinforce the view that different spatial and temporal components of the signal from the photoreceptor array are processed in parallel within the primate retina.