To determine the ultrastructural distribution of H-ras, the rho proteins rho-A, rho-B, rho-C, and the rac1 protein (members of the ras GTP-binding protein family), we used cDNA expression plasmids in which a short sequence coding for the epitope recognized by the anti c-myc monoclonal antibody 9E10 has been inserted at the N-terminus. Each of the expressed proteins has this epitope as a tag, allowing its localization by light and electron microscopy by the same antibody. After nuclear microinjection of these plasmids into MDCK or Rat 2 cells, expression of the protein (6-18 hr later) was confirmed by immunofluorescence labeling with 9E10 imaged by confocal microscopy. For ultrastructural localization of these tagged proteins, a method was devised to process microinjected cells in situ into low-temperature resin. The proteins were localized on the sections using 9E10 detected with colloidal gold conjugates. Ha-ras protein was localized almost exclusively on the cell membranes. Rho-A and rho-C were predominantly associated with the submembraneous actin network, and rho-B was found in association with multivesicular bodies. Rac1 protein induces the formation of large pinocytotic vesicles and was detected on the cytoplasmic face of these vacuoles. These experiments demonstrate the successful use of this approach for detection of de novo synthesized proteins from microinjected plasmids by both light and electron microscopy on a small (< 50 cells) sample size.