Prosomes (Proteasomes/Multicatalytic proteinase (MCP)-complexes) are protein particles built of 28 subunits in variable composition, having proteinase activity. We have studied the changes in prosomal subunits p29K, p31K and the highly expressed p23K during the differentiation of U937 cells. Control cells had little prosomal subunit p31K in the cytoplasm, while p29K antigen was detected in both the nucleus and cytoplasm; more p23K antigen was found in the cytoplasm than in the nucleus. Flow cytometry demonstrated a biphasic intracellular decrease in prosomes during differentiation induced by phorbol-myristic-acetate (PMA) and retinoic acid plus 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol (RA + VD). p23K and p29K decreased both in the cytoplasm and the nucleus of differentiated cells, though the p23K antigen was concentrated near vesicles and the plasma membrane in PMA-induced cells. The p31K antigens disappeared from RA + VD-induced cells, while in PMA-induced cells, cytoplasmic labelling was unchanged and nuclear labelling was increased. Small amounts of prosomal proteins p23K and p29K were found on the outer membrane of un-induced cells. While there was no labelling on the outer membrane of RA + VD-induced cells, p23K protein increased on the plasma membrane of PMA-induced cells. The prosome-like particle protein p21K was not present to any significant extent in the intracellular compartment of control or induced cells; however, p21K was detected on the outer surface of control cells and was increased only in PMA-induced cells. The culture medium of control and induced cells contained no p21K, p23K, p29K or p31K. RA + VD seemed to induce a general decrease of prosomal subunits within the cells and at the outer surface, whereas PMA caused a migration toward the plasma membrane and an increase at the outer surface. These changes in the distribution and type of prosomes in RA + VD- and PMA-induced cells indicate that prosomes may play a part in differentiation, especially p23K which is the most highly expressed protein among those studied and presents the more important changes.