We have characterized an anti-NOR (nucleolar organizer region) serum (P419) from a patient with rheumatoid arthritis and show that it contains antibodies directed against the RNA polymerase I-specific transcription initiation factor UBF. This serum reacts with UBF from a variety of vertebrate cells as revealed both by immunoblotting and by indirect immunofluorescence. We have used the P419 serum to study the intracellular localization of this transcription factor at the light and electron microscopic level. In interphase cells, UBF exhibits a pronounced punctate pattern and is found to be associated with necklace-like structures, which appear to reflect the transcriptionally active state of the nucleolus. Inhibition of rRNA synthetic activity caused either by nutritional starvation or by actinomycin D treatment resulted in a marked decrease in the number and in a significant increase in the size of UBF-positive granules. Under all experimental conditions applied, UBF was exclusively found within the nucleolus and was not released into the nucleoplasm or cytoplasm. During mitosis, UBF was found to be concentrated at the chromosomal NOR indicating that a significant quantity, if not all, of this factor remains bound to the ribosomal transcription units. From this we conclude that UBF is associated both with transcriptionally active and inactive rRNA genes and, therefore, changes in the intracellular localization of UBF are very likely not involved in rDNA transcription regulation.