The levels and subcellular distribution of the interferon-inducible double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase PKR have been measured in human Daudi cells and stably transfected mouse NIH 3T3 cells expressing the human protein kinase. Immunofluorescence of intact cells and quantitative immunoblotting of cell extracts indicate that PKR occurs in both the cytoplasm and the cell nucleus, with staining specifically in the nucleolus. The ratio of cytoplasmic to nuclear PKR is approximately 5:1 in control cells; in response to interferon treatment the protein kinase is induced severalfold in the cytoplasm whereas the level in the nucleus does not increase significantly. Analysis of individual transfected cells by confocal microscopy reveals a pattern of distribution of PKR similar to that in Daudi cells, with immunostaining of cytoplasm and nucleoli. Similar results are observed whether cells expressing wild-type PKR or a catalytically inactive mutant form of the kinase are analyzed, but untransfected 3T3 cells are not stained by the antibody used. Two-dimensional isoelectric focusing analysis of PKR in whole cell extracts reveals the presence of multiple forms with different pI values whereas similar analysis of the nuclear fraction indicates only one predominant species with a relatively basic pI. These results suggest that PKR may have a role in the cell nucleus as well as the cytoplasm and that the subcellular distribution of the protein kinase may be related to post-translational modifications.