We have characterized a simple method that uses 65ZnCl2 to detect zinc-binding proteins that have been immobilized on nitrocellulose. Conditions have been identified that permit the detection of as little as 1 microgram of some zinc-binding proteins. The specificity of the binding is indicated by the ability of other divalent metal ions to compete with 65Zn(II) in this assay. We have used this technique to provide evidence that the nucleic acid-binding gag protein of retroviruses also binds zinc. This technique can be applied to biological mixtures of proteins and may be used in proteolytic mapping studies to identify protein fragments that have zinc-binding activity.