Type IV collagen production by cultured glomerular mesangial cells and the effect of glucose on it were evaluated in order to explore the possible contribution of mesangial cells to the accumulation of type IV collagen in mesangial matrix typically seen in diabetes. Type IV collagen was measured quantitatively by enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay. The majority of type IV collagen was secreted into culture media and secreted-type IV collagen increased with cell growth in early log phase and decreased in late log phase and after confluency. By exposing the cells to high concentrations of glucose (27.8 mmol/l), both secreted- and cell-associated-type IV collagens increased significantly compared with the cells cultured under normal glucose concentrations (5.6 mmol/l) or under equivalent concentrations of mannitol, resulting in a significant increase in total type IV collagen accumulation from 32.1 +/- 6.4 (under 5.6 mmol/l glucose) to 51.0 +/- 4.6 micrograms/dish (mean +/- SD, n = 4) on day 4, from 113.6 +/- 6.6 to 156.8 +/- 7.1 on day 6, from 248.5 +/- 15.2 to 310.0 +/- 12.6 on day 8 and from 372.4 +/- 14.8 to 507.9 +/- 17.2 on day 12. These results indicate the importance of glucose-induced alteration of mesangial cell function in the development of diabetic mesangial expansion.