The major polypeptides of nuclear matrix preparations from vertebrate tissues are rather similar. However, nuclear matrix fractions isolated from cultured vertebrate cells of different origin show variations in their major polypeptides. We demonstrate that cytoplasmic intermediate filaments copurify with nuclear matrices from these cells. Because of their abundance, their subunit proteins form major bands on SDS-polyacrylamide gels. The tissue specificity of the intermediate filament proteins then gives rise to the variations observed. To explain the differences in major proteins of nuclear matrices isolated from vertebrate cells grown in tissue and in culture we have analyzed the distribution of intermediate filaments during isolation of nuclei from liver tissue. We show that during homogenization of liver intermediate filaments are torn off and can be separated from the nuclei. Nuclear matrix preparations from these nuclei, therefore, do not contain intermediate filaments and true nuclear matrix proteins (e.g. lamins) are the major protein species. Our results suggest that the major nuclear matrix polypeptides (lamins) are similar in all vertebrate cells, since lamin like proteins were identified in cultured cells, too. Using antisera we demonstrate an immunological difference between lamins A/C and lamin B.