The distribution of beta 1 and beta 3 integrins was studied in fetal and adult human kidneys by indirect immunofluorescence microscopy. In the developing kidney, the cells of the undifferentiated metanephric blastema displayed strong cell surface-confined beta 1 integrin immunoreactivity, whereas the cells of primary vesicles and comma- and S-shaped bodies reacted more weakly. In mature fetal as well as adult glomeruli, beta 1 integrins were distinctly localized, apparently confining to the basal cell surfaces of endothelial cells and podocytes abutting the glomerular basement membrane. In adult proximal tubules, beta 1 integrin immunoreactivity was strictly confined to the basal aspect of the epithelial cells, being absent laterally, which is unusual for membrane proteins of polarized epithelial cells. A more diffuse overall immunoreactivity was seen in distal tubules and collecting ducts. The epithelial cells of developing proximal and distal tubules displayed an overall distribution of beta 1 integrins. In each case, talin immunoreactivity followed that of beta 1 integrins. Compared with beta 1 integrins, beta 3 integrins showed a more restricted distribution, and differences were seen in the reactions of mono- and polyclonal antibodies. In developing glomeruli, beta 3 integrin immunoreactivity was prominently seen in the cells of Bowman's capsule, possibly revealing the presence of vitronectin receptor. Solitary cells, that reacted also with antibodies to the platelet glycoprotein IIb, were consistently detected in fetal glomeruli, suggesting the presence of megakaryocytes. The results show that during nephrogenesis, beta 1 integrins become distinctly polarized both in glomerular endothelial cells and podocytes, as well as in the epithelial cells of proximal tubules.