Antibodies to intermediate filament proteins were used to study different cell layers in normal human transitional epithelium, 16 human transitional cell carcinomas, and two cell lines derived from human bladder carcinomas. Conventional rabbit antisera to human skin keratins stained all layers of the transitional epithelium from bladder, ureter, and kidney. A slightly higher staining intensity was found in the basal and superficial layers as compared with the intermediate cell layers. A monoclonal antibody to cytokeratin 18 (RGE 53), however, stained only the superficial cell layer of transitional epithelium, the so-called umbrella cells. In well-differentiated (grade I) transitional cell carcinomas, RGE 53 stained only the superficial cells of papillary structures. In higher grade papillary tumors, RGE 53 also stained cells within the basal and intermediate layers, whereas in high-grade, invasive tumors almost all tumor cells were RGE 53 positive. These results show that monoclonal antibodies to cytokeratins can provide both an indication of processes involved in neoplastic progression of bladder tumors and a means of studying the molecular relationship of the tumor cells to normal cells.