Two monoclonal antibodies, BA16 and BA17, have been developed using a detergent-insoluble extract of human mammary epithelial organoids as immunogen. Indirect immunofluorescent staining of cultured cells showed that the component reacting with the antibodies was filamentous and the intensity of staining was stronger in mitotic cells. Immunoblotting of cell extracts showed that both antibodies react with only one band of 40 X 10(3) molecular weight, which was present in keratin-enriched extracts of cells or organoids. Furthermore, the tissue distribution of the component reacting with the antibodies was that predicted for human keratin 19. The antibodies showed differences in the intensity of staining of cells or tissue sections fixed and prepared in different ways indicating that they reacted with different epitopes. The pattern of expression of the 40 X 10(3) Mr keratin by normal mammary epithelial cells was investigated by immunoperoxidase staining of tissue sections, cultured milk cells, and organoids of different sizes cultured in collagen gels. It was found that basal or myoepithelial cells did not express this keratin. Some heterogeneity of expression of this component was seen in luminal epithelial cells, found almost exclusively in the smaller structures. These cells did, however, express other keratins characteristic of luminal cells. The distribution in the mammary tree of the luminal cells that did not express the 40 X 10(3) Mr keratin appears to be similar to that expected for cells with the proliferative potential to produce new terminal ductal lobular units or an increase in branching of existing terminal ductal lobular units. It is shown that these cells have considerable proliferative potential by the fact that they form large colonies in milk cell cultures.