The role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the production of renal injury has been extensively investigated, though with conflicting results. Laser capture microdissection (LCM) was performed to isolate and collect glomeruli and tubules from 20 consecutive chronically HCV-infected patients, namely 6 with membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, 4 with membranous glomerulonephritis, 7 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and 3 with IgA-nephropathy. RNA for amplification of specific viral sequences was provided by terminal continuation methodology and compared with the expression profile of HCV core protein. For each case two glomeruli and two tubular structures were microdissected and processed. HCV RNA sequences were demonstrated in 26 (65%) of 40 glomeruli, but in only 4 (10%) of the tubules (P < 0.05). HCV core protein was concomitant with viral sequences in the glomeruli and present in 31 of the 40 tubules. HCV RNA and/or HCV core protein was found in all four disease types. The immunohistochemical picture of HCV core protein was compared with the LCM-based immunoassays of the adjacent tissue sections. Immune deposits were detected in 7 (44%) of 16 biopsy samples shown to be positive by extraction methods. The present study indicates that LCM is a reliable method for measuring both HCV RNA genomic sequences and HCV core protein in kidney functional structures from chronically HCV-infected patients with different glomerulopathies and provides a useful baseline estimate to define the role of HCV in the production of renal injury. The different distribution of HCV RNA and HCV-related proteins may reflect a peculiar 'affinity' of kidney microenvironments for HCV and point to distinct pathways of HCV-related damage in glomeruli and tubules.