To detect changes in the extent of tubulin polymerization in cultured cells, we have developed a radioactive antibody binding assay that can be used to quantitate total cytoskeletal tubulin or specific antigenic subsets of polymerized tubulin. Fibroblastic cells, grown to confluence in multiwell plates, were permeabilized and extracted with 0.5% Triton X-100 in a microtubule-stabilizing buffer. These extracted cytoskeletons were then fixed and incubated with translationally radiolabeled monoclonal antitubulin antibody (Ab 1-1.1), an IgM antibody specific for the beta subunit of tubulin. Specific binding of Ab 1-1.1 to the cytoskeletons was saturable and of a single apparent affinity. All specific binding was blocked by preincubation of the radiolabeled antibody with excess purified brain tubulin. Specific Ab 1-1.1 binding appeared to represent binding to cytoskeletal tubulin inasmuch as: pretreatment of cells with colchicine decreased Ab 1-1.1 binding in a dose-dependent manner which correlated with the amount of polymerized tubulin visualized in parallel cultures by indirect immunofluorescence, taxol pretreatment alone caused an increase in Ab 1-1.1 binding and prevented in a dose-dependent manner the colchicine-induced decrease in antibody binding, in cells pretreated with colcemid and returned to fresh medium, Ab 1-1.1 binding decreased and recovered in parallel with the depolymerization and regrowth of microtubules in these cells, and comparison of maximal antibody binding per cell between primary mouse embryo, 3T3, and human foreskin fibroblasts correlated with immunofluorescence visualization of microtubules in these cells. Thus, this assay can be used to measure relative changes in the level of polymerized cytoskeletal tubulin. Moreover, by Scatchard-type analysis of the binding data it is possible to estimate the total number of antibody binding sites per cell. Therefore, depending on the stoichiometry of antibody binding, this type of assay may be used for quantitating total cytoskeletal tubulin, specific antigenic subsets of cytoskeletal tubulin, or other cytoskeletal proteins.