Cell-CAM 105 has been identified as a cell adhesion molecule based on the ability of anti-cell-CAM 105 monospecific Fab fragments to inhibit the reaggregation of rat hepatocytes. Because of its adhesive properties, it was expected that cell-CAM 105 would be present on the lateral cell surface where adhesive interactions predominate. Paradoxically, however, immunofluorescence analysis of frozen sections of rat liver using specific monoclonal antibodies indicated that cell-CAM 105 was present exclusively in the bile canalicular domain of the rat hepatocyte where there is no intercellular adhesion. To more precisely define the in situ localization of cell-CAM 105, immunoperoxidase labeling and electron microscopy were used to examine intact and mechanically dissociated liver tissue. Results showed that when accessibility was provided by mechanical dissociation of perfusion fixed liver tissue, cell-CAM 105 could be detected in the pericanalicular region of lateral membranes. In contrast, when hepatocytes were labeled after incubation in vitro under conditions used during adhesion assays to induce reaggregation, cell-CAM 105 rapidly redistributed to all areas of the plasma membrane. Immunofluorescence analysis of primary hepatocyte cultures further revealed that cell-CAM 105 and two other bile canalicular proteins relocalized to discrete domains reminiscent of bile canaliculi, whereas cell-CAM 105 was also present in areas of intercellular contact. Serial section electron microscopy analysis of well-defined, cross-sectional profiles of bile canaliculi suggested the presence of cell-CAM 105—positive membrane folds that extended along the length of the bile canalicular border. In sections from livers in which calcium-dependent adhesive contacts had been disrupted by treatment with ethylenediamine tetraacetate, intact bile canaliculi were found that remained attached only by these border folds. The implications of these results are discussed with regard to a possible role for cell-CAM 105 in bile canalicular formation. (HEPATOLOGY 1991; 13:47–56).