Integrin matrix receptors on glomerular epithelial cells (GEC) may play an important role in adhesion of GEC to the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) and in the maintenance of normal glomerular permeability. Therefore, the author determined the types of matrix receptors present on cultured rat GEC and examined their interactions with several components of the extracellular matrix. Beta 1 integrin matrix receptors were detected on all three glomerular cell types in rat kidney in vivo and at areas of cell-cell contact on cultured GEC. Glomerular epithelial cell adhesion to types I and IV collagen was slightly greater than to laminin and fibronectin. Adhesion to fibronectin was significantly inhibited by a synthetic peptide containing the RGD adhesion sequence. Immunoprecipitation of lysates of surface-iodinated GEC showed the presence of alpha 3 beta 1 integrin. Chromatography of lysates on immobilized collagen showed alpha 3 beta 1 integrin and a 70- to 75-kd protein band as the collagen receptors on GEC. Chromatography on the 120-kd cell-binding fragment of fibronectin disclosed only alpha 3 beta 1 as a specific fibronectin receptor. Antibody to the beta 1 integrin chain inhibited adhesion to laminin and collagen. These studies demonstrate that in vitro, as in vivo, GEC appear to express only alpha 3 beta 1 integrin. Furthermore, this matrix receptor is capable of mediating GEC adhesion to collagen, fibronectin, and laminin, components of the GBM, and presumably plays a similar role in promoting GEC adhesion to GBM in vivo.