5'-Nucleotidase isolated from the electric organ of the electric ray (Torpedo marmorata) has a molecular mass of 62 kDa and, on two-dimensional electrophoresis, separates into up to 13 isoforms within a pI range of 5.9-6.7. The N-terminal sequence data show a 71% identity over 17 amino acids with that previously published for the rat liver enzyme. All forms of 5'-nucleotidase are recognized by the HNK-1 monoclonal antibody. HNK-1 immunoreactivity is found at the surface of the Schwann-cell processes covering the synaptic terminals and in this respect corresponds to that of 5'-nucleotidase in the same tissue. Since a number of glycoproteins involved in cell recognition and cell adhesion carry the HNK-1 epitope, 5'-nucleotidase may play a role in cell-cell or cell-extracellular matrix interaction in addition to its activity as an enzyme.