Renal basement membrane components. Basement membranes are specialized extracellular matrices found throughout the body. They surround all epithelia, endothelia, peripheral nerves, muscle cells, and fat cells. They play particularly important roles in the kidney, as demonstrated by the fact that defects in renal basement membranes are associated with kidney malfunction. The major components of all basement membranes are laminin, collagen IV, entactin/nidogen, and sulfated proteoglycans. Each of these describes a family of related proteins that assemble with each other in the extracellular space to form the basement membrane. Over the last few years, new basement membrane components that are expressed in the kidney have been discovered. Here, the major components and their localization in mature and developing renal basement membranes are described. In addition, the phenotypes of basement membrane component gene mutations, both naturally occurring and experimental, are discussed, as is the aberrant deposition of basement membrane proteins in the extracellular matrix in several renal diseases.