Perinuclear actin shells have been reported in a variety of organisms. The shells have been identified by staining perinuclear material with fluorescently-labelled phalloidin, but have not been localized to a specific subcellular compartment at the ultrastructural level. We show here that the shells of 3T3 cells lie in the peripheral nuclear matrix. Nuclear shells and matrix actin in other parts of the nucleus are not usually detected by immunohistochemical staining because they are inaccessible to antibodies or to phalloidin. Immunohistochemical detection of nuclear actin is only possible during its deposition at the end of mitosis, or in interphase nuclei that have been extracted with detergent, digested with nucleases and washed with high salt buffers.