AIMS: To investigate the localisation of the E48 epitope and to determine the use of monoclonal antibody E48 for the identification of transitional cell carcinomas (TCC); and to determine if antigenic expression was affected by different standard fixation methods. METHODS: Biopsy specimens were labelled with E48 for immunoelectron microscopy. One hundred and nineteen tissue samples from 47 bladder carcinomas were tested for reactivity with E48, using fresh frozen, sublimate formalin, and formalin fixed tissue. Thirteen undifferentiated bladder tumours and 10 undifferentiated prostatic carcinomas were incubated with E48 and prostate specific antigen. RESULTS: Reactivity to E48 was found in all grade 1 and 2 carcinomas and most (83%) grade 3 tumours. At the ultrastructural level, expression was mainly associated with desmosomes and the cytoplasmic membrane. The reactivity of E48 was generally strong in fresh frozen tissue samples and remained preserved in fixed tissue samples. Ten of the 13 bladder carcinomas expressed E48; all prostatic tumours were totally negative. CONCLUSIONS: E48 is a sensitive marker for transitional cell carcinoma and suitable for differentiation between urothelial and prostatic undifferentiated carcinoma. It can be used in routinely processed, formalin fixed, biopsy specimens.