T51B, a cell line of the rat liver nonparenchymal cell compartment, contains a cytokeratin (CK) pair composed of CK8, a CK typical of simple epithelium, and CK14, a CK usually present in proliferative stratified epithelium. T51B-Ni, a subclone selected by prolonged exposure of the parental clone to nickel subsulfide contains CK8 and CK18 (its usual partner in simple epithelium), as well as CK14, at a lower level. The two clones have comparable levels of vimentin. Northern blot analyses of cytoplasmic mRNA demonstrated that the differences in the steady state mRNA levels of each CK paralleled those observed at the protein level, thus showing that the regulatory events occurred prior to translation. The most prominent difference was a 30-fold higher level of CK18 mRNA in T51B-Ni cells. Run-off assays of isolated nuclei revealed that the level of CK8, CK14, and vimentin was regulated primarily at the transcriptional level. However, the large increase in CK18 mRNA levels in T51B-Ni cells did not result from a corresponding increase in the relative level of CK18 gene transcription nor from a change in cytoplasmic CK18 mRNA stability. Comparative Northern blot analyses of nuclear and cytoplasmic mRNAs further suggested that the control of CK18 gene expression in T51B cells is post-transcriptionally mediated by nuclear events.