The surface antigens of cultured human malignant astrocytomas were analyzed by using mouse monoclonal antibodies. BALB/c mice were immunized repeatedly with either SK-MG-1 [a glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFA)-negative astrocytoma line] or SK-AO2 (a GFA-positive astrocytoma line). After fusion with NS/1 mouse myeloma cells, 12 antibody-producing clones were selected for detailed study. Serological analysis permitted the identification of nine distinct antigenic systems. Four monoclonal antibodies (Ab AJ225, Ab AO10, Ab AJ8, and Ab AO122) identified cell surface antigens preferentially expressed on tumors of neuroectodermal origin, and these antibodies subdivided the astrocytoma panel into distinguishable subsets. The determinant detected by Ab AO10 and Ab AJ8 showed mutually exclusive expression on the astrocytoma lines. The AO10 and AJ8 phenotypes appeared to reflect the differentiation state of the cultured cells; 4/7 AO10-positive astrocytomas expressed GFA, an intracellular astrocyte differentiation antigen, whereas all AJ8-positive astrocytoma (9/9) were GFA-negative. Five antibodies (Ab AJ10, Ab AJ9, Ab AJ17, Ab AJ425, and Ab AJ2) recognized determinants widely distributed on normal and malignant cells. Four antibodies defined in this study precipitated proteins from reduced preparations of radioisotope-labeled SK-MG-1 and SK-AO2 cells: Ab AJ225 (Mr 145,000); Ab AO122 (Mr265,000); Ab AJ10 (Mrs 195,000 and 165,000); and Ab AJ2 (Mrs 170,000, 140,000, 140,000, and 28,000).