A monoclonal antibody to HLA-G has been generated by immunizing HLA-A2.1/human beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2 m) double transgenic mice with murine L cells transfected with both human beta 2 m and HLA-G. This monoclonal antibody, designated as G233, has been found not to cross-react with other HLA class I antigens when tested on numerous cell lines by flow cytometry. With immunohistology, all populations of extravillous trophoblast (cell columns, interstitial trophoblast, endovascular trophoblast, placental bed giant cells) were stained. An extensive range of adult and fetal tissues was also tested but none reacted with monoclonal antibody G233, including those previously reported to express HLA-G mRNA, indicating that the protein has a highly restricted distribution. Failure to detect HLA-G in the fetal thymus raises the question as to how T-cell tolerance to this antigen is induced. Immunoprecipitation of trophoblast surface proteins with monoclonal antibody G233 revealed a heavy chain of 39 kDa and a light chain of 12 kDa, indicating that HLA-G expressed on the surface of trophoblast is complexed with beta 2 m. However, sequential immunoprecipitation with monoclonal antibody W6/32 followed by monoclonal antibody G233 continued to detect a residual band of 39 kDa, suggesting that trophoblast surface HLA-G may also occur as free heavy chains not associated with beta 2 m. Immunoprecipitation followed by two dimensional gel electrophoresis showed that monoclonal antibody G233 recognizes several isoforms of HLA-G from trophoblast similar to the characteristic spot array previously described for HLA-G. This monoclonal antibody G233 will be highly useful in future experiments to elucidate the function of HLA-G.