Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) has widespread effects on extracellular matrix production by many cultured cell lines and appears to play a role in the pathological accumulation of extracellular matrix that accompanies inflammatory and fibrotic diseases such as glomerulonephritis. Earlier experiments have shown that mesangial cells respond to TGF-beta 1 with a marked increase in the production of two chondroitin/dermatan sulfate proteoglycans, decorin and biglycan, but their production of other matrix components elevated in glomerulonephritis is not substantially affected by TGF-beta 1. Since the glomerular epithelial cells are also thought to contribute to matrix production in the glomerulus, we examined the ability of these cells to produce some of the nonproteoglycan matrix components in response to TGF-beta 1. Exposure of glomerular epithelial cells to TGF-beta 1 increased the production of fibronectin and type IV collagen, in addition to biglycan. Enhancement of the cell layer accumulation of laminin was also observed. These results show that TGF-beta 1 has a differential effect on extracellular matrix production by epithelial and mesangial cells from glomeruli. TGF-beta 1 released in the glomerulus secondary to injury could thus affect both cell types and lead to increased intraglomerular production of proteoglycans, whereas the increased fibronectin, type IV collagen, and laminin may primarily originate from the epithelial cells.