Using a panel of 21 monoclonal and 2 polyclonal keratin antibodies, capable of detecting separately 11 subtypes of their epithelial intermediate filament proteins at the single cell level, we investigated keratin expression in 16 squamous cell carcinomas, 9 adenocarcinomas, and 3 adenosquamous carcinomas of the human uterine cervix. The keratin phenotype of the keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma was found to be most complex comprising keratins 4, 5, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, and usually keratin 10. The nonkeratinizing variety of the squamous cell carcinoma expressed keratins 6, 14, 17, and 19 in all cases, usually 4, 5, 7, 8, and 18, and sometimes keratins 10, 13, and 16. Adenocarcinomas displayed a less complex keratin expression pattern comprising keratins 7, 8, 17, 18, and 19, while keratin 14 was often present and keratins 4, 5, 10 and 13 were sporadically found in individual cells in a few cases. These keratin phenotypes may be useful in differential diagnostic considerations when distinguishing between keratinizing and nonkeratinizing carcinomas (using keratin 10, 13, and 16 antibodies), and also in the distinction between nonkeratinizing carcinomas and poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas, which do not express keratins 5 and 6. Keratin 17 may also be useful in distinguishing carcinomas of the cervix from those of the colon and also from mesotheliomas. Furthermore the presence of keratin 17 in a CIN I, II, or III lesion may indicate progressive potential while its absence could be indicative of a regressive behavior. Because most carcinomas express keratins 8, 14, 17, 18, and 19, we propose that this expression pattern reflects the origin of cervical cancer from a common progenitor cell, i.e., the endocervical reserve cell that has been shown to express keratins 5, 8, 14, 17, 18, and 19.