We studied 41 renal cell carcinomas, classified according to histologic grades G1 through G3, by indirect immunofluorescence microscopy using a panel of monoclonal antibodies (MAb) against various integrin subunits, and the basement membrane (BM) components laminin and collagen type IV. Selected cases also were immunostained using the avidin-biotin-complex method. The alpha 3 and beta 1 integrin subunits were detected in tumor cells of all the carcinomas. All G1 carcinomas, like normal tubular epithelial cells, expressed the alpha 6 subunit, whereas it was lacking in 20% and 40% of G2 and G3 carcinomas, respectively. Furthermore, when alpha 6 was expressed, a lack of basally polarized organization of the subunit, coupled with disorganization of the BM components, correlated with histologic grade. Another feature that appeared to characterize the more anaplastic tumors was their high level (80%) of the alpha v subunit expression as compared with its absence in the G1 carcinomas. Stromal myofibroblasts, identified by double-labeling with anti-myosin, were often characterized by the expression of the alpha 1, alpha 3, alpha 5 and beta 1 subunits. These results indicate that changes in integrin expression in renal cell carcinomas may be correlated with their degree of histologic malignancy.