Monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) directed against the Leydig cell surface may be used to identify this cell in testicular preparations. Collagenase-dispersed adult rat interstitial cells were fractionated on Percoll density gradients, and Leydig cell-enriched fractions were used to prepare MAbs. Hybridomas were screened by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), indirect immunofluorescence assay (IIF) on isolated testicular cells and immunocytochemical localization on paraffin sections of adult testes. In density gradient fractions, immunoglobulin (Ig) M MAbs (LC-1C6 and LC-6H6) labeled the surface of cells possessing the morphological characteristics of Leydig cells. The density gradient profiles of MAb-binding activity observed by IIF and ELISA were parallel with the Leydig cell distribution as determined by [125I]-human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) binding, testosterone response to hCG in vitro, 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase histochemistry and electron microscopy. The MAbs prominently labeled most interstitial cells in sections, but there was little or no labeling of connective tissue, endothelial or seminiferous tubule cells. Both MAbs recognized components of Mr 58,000 in Western blots of Leydig cell-enriched extracts. The results indicate that LC-1C6 and LC-6H6 recognize antigens on the Leydig cell surface that are not present on other isolated testicular cells from the adult rat. These MAbs are specific markers of the Leydig cell in situ and in vitro.