Imbalances in epithelium-matrix interactions have been discussed as a pathomechanism in ulcerative colitis, causing a colonic mucosal barrier dysfunction. Laminin, the major noncollagenous component of the basement membrane, plays a role in epithelial basal lamina formation and promotes differentiation of human enterocytes. We therefore investigated the distribution of laminin in ulcerative colitis affected colonic tissues. Tissue specimens from both affected and nonaffected colonic regions were obtained from ten patients with ulcerative colitis during colonoscopies or operations. Healthy tissue from five patients with colorectal cancer was used as control. After histological classification, the localization and distribution of the basement membrane associated extracellular matrix proteins were determined by immunohistochemistry. Paraffin-embedded sections were incubated with antibodies against laminin and type IV and V collagen. No positive immunoreactivity against laminin was found in most of the epithelial basement membranes surrounding the crypts in affected colonic tissues, without involvement of the subendothelial structures. In contrast, a type IV and V collagen accumulation occurred in all these tissue samples. The lack of laminin in combination with an overexpression of type IV and V collagen, as reported for the first time in this paper, leads to changes in basement membrane structure. These findings indicate that the three-dimensional network of the colonic epithelial basement membrane and its function are seriously disturbed in exacerbating ulcerative colitis. This provides new insights into the importance of cell-matrix interactions for physiological and pathological mechanisms in the etiology of ulcerative colitis.