We have determined the biochemical and immunocytochemical localization of the heterogeneous microtubule-associated protein tau using a monoclonal antibody that binds to all of the tau polypeptides in both bovine and rat brain. Using immunoblot assays and competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, we have shown tau to be more abundant in bovine white matter extracts and microtubules than in extracts and microtubules from an enriched gray matter region of the brain. On a per mole basis, twice-cycled microtubules from white matter contained three times more tau than did twice-cycled microtubules from gray matter. Immunohistochemical studies that compared the localization of tau with that of MAP2 and tubulin demonstrated that tau was restricted to axons, extending the results of the biochemical studies. Tau localization was not observed in glia, which indicated that, at least in brain, tau is neuron specific. These observations indicate that tau may help define a subpopulation of microtubules that is restricted to axons. Furthermore, the monoclonal antibody described in this report should prove very useful to investigators studying axonal sprouting and growth because it is an exclusive axonal marker.