In a previous work (J.-R. Daban, M. Samsó, and S. Bartolomé, Anal. Biochem. 199, 162-168, 1991) we observed that, in the presence of the detergent sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), diverse types of proteins produced a high increase in the fluorescence intensity of the hydrophobic probe 9-diethylamino-5H-benzo[α]phenoxazine-5-one (Nile red). This enhancement of Nile red fluorescence was observed at SDS concentrations lower than the critical micelle concentration (CMC) of this detergent in the buffer (0.025 m Tris and 0.192 m glycine, pH 8.3) currently used in SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. This observation led us to introduce a modification in the typical (U. K. Laemmli, Nature 227, 680-685, 1970) SDS-polyacrylamide gels, in which the SDS concentration in the gel after electrophoresis is lower than the CMC of this detergent but high enough to maintain the stability of the protein-SDS complexes in the bands. The staining of these modified gels with Nile red produces very high fluorescence in the protein-SDS bands and low background fluorescence. The Nile red staining method described in this paper is very rapid (i.e., the bands can be visualized and photographed within 6 min after the electrophoretic separation) and has a high sensitivity, similar to that obtained with the covalent fluorophores rhodamine B isothiocyanate and carboxytetramethylrhodamine succinimidyl ester also investigated in this work. Furthermore, our quantitative estimates indicate that most of the protein bands stained with Nile red show similar values of the fluorescence intensity per unit mass. © 1991.