The distribution of subunits of the basement membrane proteins laminin and merosin in human and rabbit tissue was studied by immunofluorescence using monoclonal antibodies. The laminin A chain is present in epithelial, endothelial, and smooth muscle basement membranes. Merosin, as defined by its heavy chain M, is present in striated muscle and peripheral nerve. The A subunit colocalizes with at least two B subunits: B2 plus either B1 or the recently discovered B1 homologue S. The M subunit most often colocalizes with B1 and B2. Exceptions include the myotendinous junction, where M colocalizes with S, and the trophoblast basement membrane, where the M subunit colocalizes with S as well as B1. The presence of all five known subunits of the laminin family in placenta allowed isolation of their parent molecules in native form by the use of monoclonal antibodies in affinity chromatography. Four different heterotrimeric proteins could be identified: B1 chain-containing laminin (A-B1-B2), S chain-containing laminin (A-S-B2), B1-containing merosin (M-B1-B2), and S-containing merosin (M-S-B2). The data show that the proteins in the laminin family are heterotrimers composed of one heavy and two light chains; that most basement membranes contain predominantly one protein of the laminin family; and that laminin, as defined by the A subunit, has a much more restricted distribution than previously thought.