We have determined that the major mitotic phosphoprotein in chromosomes recognized by the antiphosphoprotein antibody MPM-2 is the 170-kDa isoform of topoisomerase II (topo II), the isoform predominant in proliferating cells. As a prerequisite to making this discovery, it was necessary to develop protocols to protect chromosomal proteins from dephosphorylation during cell extraction and chromosome isolation procedures. Immunofluorescence analysis of the large chromosomes prepared from Indian Muntjac cells revealed colocalization of MPM-2 and anti-topo II antibodies to the chromosomal centromeres and to the axial regions of the chromosomal arms. For biochemical fractionation studies, large quantities of chromosomes from the P388D1 mouse lymphocyte cell line were isolated and treated to remove DNA and histone proteins. Immunoblot and immunoprecipitation experiments with this chromosome scaffold fraction identified the major MPM-2-reactive phosphoprotein to be DNA topo II. Using a panel of anti-peptide antibodies specific to the isoforms of topo II, we determined that the major phosphoprotein recognized by MPM-2 is the 170-kDa isoform of topo II, topo II alpha. The 180-kDa isoform, topo II beta, present in the isolated chromosomes in much smaller quantities, is also recognized by MPM-2. The mitotic phosphorylation of the topo II proteins may be critical for proper chromosome condensation and segregation.