A sensitive method for the nonisotopic in vitro labeling of proteins under physiological conditions using photobiotin, a compound originally developed for labeling nucleic acids (Forster et al. (1985) Nucleic Acids Res. 13, 745), has been developed. Using sheep brain tubulin as a model protein it was shown that labeling with photobiotin resulted in detection limits below 10 pg when avidin-alkaline phosphatase was used in the final step. No significant loss of tubulin polymerization, colchicine binding, recognition by antitubulin antibodies, or changes in electrophoretic behavior were observed. In addition, photobiotinylation of antitubulin antibodies did not affect their recognition of unlabeled tubulin. The use of photobiotin labeling with avidin-alkaline phosphatase detection for electrophoretic separations of molecular weight standards, crude protein supernatants, and tubulin gave a 64 to 1024-fold increase in sensitivity over Coomassie blue staining.