5-(4-Dimethylaminobenzylidene)rhodamine, a silver-specific dye, was used in a colorimetric assay to quantitate the autoradiographic deposition of silver onto X-ray film after exposure to sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels of radiolabeled biological material. Silver grains were eluted from autoradiograms with 5 N potassium hydroxide, dissolved in nitric acid, and neutralized with 1 M Trizma Base. The concentration of silver was measured spectrophotometrically owing to the chelation properties of the dye. After corrections for background exposure were made, the silver contents of excised bands were then determined by comparison to a standard curve generated with silver nitrate. We have used this silver assay to quantitate the relative amount of each polypeptide band comprising the polyomavirus structural protein VP2 doublet. The method reported here has proven useful when densitometry is inconvenient (i.e., short distance between bands, irregular shape of bands, very faint bands) in addition to being inexpensive and simple to perform.