A monoclonal antibody was raised against the major capsid protein L1 of human papillomavirus type 16, using a recombinant vaccinia virus that expresses the L1 protein, as a target for screening. This antibody, designated CAMVIR-1, reacted with a 56 kilodalton protein in cells infected with L1-vaccinia virus, and the protein was present in a predominantly nuclear location. The antibody also detects the HPV-16 L1 antigen in formalin fixed, paraffin wax embedded biopsy specimens and on routine cervical smears. The antibody reacts strongly and consistently with biopsy specimens containing HPV-16 or HPV-33, but very weak reactions were occasionally observed with biopsy specimens or smears containing HPV-6 or HPV-11. The potential advantages of using a vaccinia recombinant are (i) the target protein is synthesised in a eukoryotic cell so that its "processing" and location are normal; (ii) cells infected with vaccinia recombinants can be subjected to various fixing procedures similar to those used for routine clinical material. This greatly increases the probability that an identified antibody will be useful in a clinical setting.