The rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) is an important experimental animal frequently utilized for studies of infectious diseases, immunity, hematopoiesis, and transplantation. Since the structure of cell surface molecules is phylogenetically conserved, monoclonal antibodies raised against human leukocyte antigens can sometimes recognize the homologous determinant on monkey leukocytes. To facilitate better utilization of this animal model, we tested 89 commercially available monoclonal antibodies which define 27 human cell surface antigens for reactivity with rhesus monkey PBL. Certain antigens which delineate clinical useful lymphocyte subsets such as CD2, CD4, CD8, CD14, CD16, CD20, and MHC class II are apparently well conserved since most human cell-specific antibodies identified the homologous cell subset in monkeys. However, other antigens such as CD3, CD19, CD45, and CD56 were identified infrequently by human cell-specific antibodies. FITC-modification of antibodies which had no effect on their binding to human cells occasionally inhibited antibody binding to monkey cells. Nevertheless, an adequate number of cross-reactive monoclonal antibodies was identified to allow gating of lymphocytes for accurate flow cytometric analysis and quantitation of the major lymphocyte subsets of the rhesus monkey. The T lymphocyte subset distribution in blood and lymphoid tissue of rhesus monkeys was similar to man. However, the B subset was significantly larger in monkeys. The daily variation in absolute PBL subset size was marked and found to be due mainly to daily fluctuations in total lymphocyte number.