The immunohistopathology of the intrinsic basement membrane-associated antigens were examined in diabetic nephropathy. In early and moderate stages of disease there was polyantigenic expansion of all the intrinsic components of mesangium, glomerular basement membrane (GBM), and tubular basement membrane (TBM) assessed by polyclonal antisera to collagen types IV and V, laminin, and by monoclonal antibodies to type IV collagen and fibronectin and to four other intrinsic components of normal renal extracellular matrices (MBM10, 11, 12, and 15). In the mesangium the first intrinsic antigens to increase were fibronectin and type V collagen. In late stages of disease, there was a diminution in the mesangium of all of these antigens with the exception of type V collagen, which persisted. Additionally, antigens appeared in the mesangium, recognized by MBM11 and MBM15, which are normally present in fetal but not adult mesangial regions. Similarly, in the GBM in late stages of disease, there was a decrease in all of the antigens, except for a persistence of the antigen recognized by MBM15. However, in TBM all of the antigens assessed increased in early, moderate, and severe disease. These studies document the complexity of polyantigenic alterations in the development of diabetic nephropathy.