A high frequency of glomerulonephritis (GN) in diabetics, or coexistence of GN with diabetic glomerulosclerosis, has been reported by previous authors, but the true prevalence of GN in diabetics remains to be established. In the Department of Pathology, Heidelberg, from 1.1.1987 to 31.12.1989 we examined all consecutive patients (89 male, 121 female, median age 74 years; 47-98) who came to autopsy with the diagnosis of "diabetes mellitus" to assess this issue in an unbiased sample. Five patients had known type I diabetes, the others type II diabetes or diabetes of unknown classification. In 61/159 patients, proteinuria had been present (no information in 51 patients) and in 99/169 patients renal failure, i.e. serum creatinine above 1.4 mg/dl (no information in 41 patients). Paraffin-embedded kidney specimens from the upper pole of the left kidney were examined by immunohistochemistry (PAP technique; rabbit antihuman IgG; IgM; IgAab). 166/210 of the patients had glomerulosclerosis by light microscopy (129 diffuse, 37 nodular GS). Concomitant glomerulonephritis, i.e. typical mesangial IgA (and IgG) deposits, with mesangial enlargement by light microscopy were detected in only one case. Membranous GN was not found. These findings must be interpreted against the observation of mesangial immune deposits in 6 of 250 consecutive non-diabetic patients who had come to autopsy [Waldherr et al. 1989]. The findings show that an excessive prevalence of undiagnosed glomerulonephritis in our cohort of elderly type II diabetics was not to be found.