The immunohistochemical and histochemical properties of 16 surgically excised subretinal neovascular membranes from 16 patients with age-related macular degeneration were studied. Primary antisera to c-retinaldehyde-binding protein; leukocyte common antigen; factor VIII-related antigen; S-100 protein; glial fibrillary acid protein; muscle-specific actin; neuron-specific enolase; collagen types I, II, III, IV, and V; laminin; and fibronectin were used for immunohistochemical characterization of the membranes. Histochemical staining for lipid and mucopolysaccharide was performed. The results of the staining in conjunction with histologic examination showed the cellular components of the membranes to be composed of retinal pigment epithelium, inflammatory cells, vascular endothelium, glial cells, myofibroblasts, photoreceptor cells, and fibrocytes. The extracellular matrix of the membranes contained collagen types I, III, IV, and V; fibronectin; laminin; mucopolysaccharide; and lipid. These findings are consistent with the concept that subretinal neovascular membranes in age-related macular degeneration are composed of localized intra-Bruch's membrane granulation tissue proliferation associated with diffuse drusen.