It has become apparent that extracellular matrix components and their cellular receptors, the integrins, are important regulators of glomerular development and function. In this rapidly evolving field we studied the production of extracellular matrix components and integrins by rat glomerular visceral epithelial and mesangial cells, using molecular probes and antibodies that have recently become available. Special attention was paid to laminin isoforms and to splice variants of the integrin subunits alpha 3 and alpha 6. Results were compared to the in vivo expression in human fetal, newborn and adult kidneys. The mesangial cells were found to produce laminin-1, nidogen and two as yet unidentified laminin isoforms with putative alpha chains of about 395 (alpha x) and of 375 kDa (alpha y), tentatively described before as bovine kidney laminin. Furthermore, they expressed the integrins alpha 1 beta 1, alpha 2 beta 1, alpha 3A beta 1, alpha 5 beta 1, alpha v beta 3, alpha v beta 5, and small amounts of alpha 6A beta 1 and alpha 6B beta 1. The glomerular visceral epithelial cells produced the two new laminin isoforms mentioned above, laminin-5, but no laminin-1 or nidogen. The integrins alpha 2 beta 1, alpha 3A beta 1, alpha 6A beta 4, alpha 6B beta 4 and the integrin subunit alpha v were found to be expressed. We show that during nephrogenesis, the laminin alpha 1 chain disappears and is replaced by another alpha chain, possibly one of the two as yet unidentified alpha chains mentioned above. The laminin beta 1 chain is replaced by the beta 2 chain somewhat later in glomerular development. In general, the integrins found to be expressed in glomeruli of adult kidney were consistent with those found in cultured glomerular visceral epithelial and mesangial cells. No splice variant switch of the integrin alpha 3 or alpha 6 subunits could be demonstrated during nephrogenesis. Our results suggest an important role for the mesangial cell in providing nidogen as a crucial component of the supramolecular structure of the glomerular basement membrane. Furthermore our results indicate that laminin alpha x beta 2 gamma 1 and alpha y beta 2 gamma 1 isoforms are important in the glomerulus of adult kidney and that the integrin alpha 3A beta 1 is the main integrin receptor for laminin isoforms on glomerular visceral epithelial and mesangial cells, both in vitro and in vivo.