Chronic glomerulonephritis was diagnosed in 23 patients born in a small valley in Northern Italy and in five additional patients with one parent or a more remote ancestor born in the same area, all belonging to three potentially related families. Eighteen patients had biopsy-proven glomerulonephritis: 11 IgA nephropathy, 3 IgM nephropathy, 2 membranoproliferative type I, and 2 mesangial proliferative glomerulonephritis with isolated C3 deposits. Ten had clinical glomerulonephritis. A community screening programme discovered six additional related patients. Two underwent renal biopsy (1 IgA nephropathy; 1 focal glomerulosclerosis); four were diagnosed as having clinical glomerulonephritis. Genealogical investigation identified five deceased family members with diagnoses of chronic nephritis recorded on their death certificates. No environmental nephrotoxic factors were identified. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of HLA-DR beta, HLA-DQ alpha and beta genes, and complement typing for C4A, C4B, and Bf polymorphisms were carried out for 29 patients, 168 healthy relatives, and 24 local controls. The frequency of HLA-Dw8.1 specificity, related to DR beta 8, DQ beta 3b, and DQ alpha 1a RFLPs, was significantly increased more in the affected and unaffected pedigree members than in Italian controls.