Affinity purified rabbit anti-mouse E-cadherin antibodies, reacting with diverse rat epithelia, were used to characterize epithelial changes in a radiation-induced fibrosis model of rat lung by immunoblotting techniques, immunoperoxidase and immunofluorescence microscopy. Immunostaining of normal rat lung tissues revealed a predominant staining of type II pneumocytes. Immunoelectron microscopy confirmed the immunohistochemical data of normal lung tissue obtained at the light microscopic level. In severely injured rat lung, we found enhanced immunoreactivity for E-cadherin at the surface of type I alveolar epithelial cells. The results suggest that E-cadherin is an adhesion molecule that is modulated after pathological alteration of the alveolar epithelium and that the antiserum may be useful for the characterization of normal and diseased rat epithelia.