Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is a 750-amino acid glycoprotein highly expressed in malignant prostate tissues. PSMA reacts with the murine monoclonal antibody 7E11.C5, whose binding epitope has been mapped to the N-terminal of the protein distributed on the cytoplasmic side of the plasma membrane. We have developed murine monoclonal antibodies specific for extracellular epitopes of PSMA. Three of these antibodies--1G9, 3C6, and 4D4--display distinct binding properties consistent with their recognition of conformational epitopes within native PSMA. Results indicate this panel of antibodies binds to native full-length PSMA, but not to fusion proteins containing portions of the linear sequence of the protein. Antibody binding is greatly reduced upon heat denaturation of native PSMA, and these antibodies do not detect PSMA by Western blot. Immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrate the ability of each to bind to full-length PSMA as well as PSM', a form of the protein missing the first 57 amino acids. These results indicate each antibody is specific for an epitope within the extracellular domain, a region spanning residues 44-750. Flow cytometric experiments indicate strong specific binding to live LNCaP cells. Antibody inhibition studies demonstrate that these antibodies recognize at least two distinct epitopes. Taken together, the results demonstrate that these antibodies are specific for native protein conformational epitopes within the extracellular domain. Their properties, in particular strong binding to live cancer cells, make them ideal candidates that are clearly superior to linear sequence epitope specific antibodies for in vivo applications.