The pattern of deposition and the role of laminin, a major glycoprotein constituent of basement membranes, were investigated during lung morphogenesis in the fetal mouse. Lung primordia were removed from Day 13 embryos, right lower lobes were further dissected and placed in filter membrane assemblies. Explants were then cultured at the liquid-air interface for 3 days in the presence of anti-laminin, anti-thrombospondin (another extracellular matrix constituent), preimmune serum, laminin-neutralized anti-laminin, or medium alone. Cultures were monitored by (direct) phase-contrast microscopy, light microscopy, and immunofluorescence. We found that anti-laminin antibodies altered normal lung morphogenesis in a dose-dependent manner. The anti-laminin-treated explants presented a marked inhibition of branching morphogenesis and a distortion of the bronchial tree. A lower rate of growth was also observed in the explants exposed to this antibody. High concentrations of anti-thrombospondin antibodies, normal rabbit serum, or laminin-neutralized anti-laminin antibodies had no effect on lung morphogenesis. These results were not modified by culturing the explants in submersion culture or on Vitrogen 100-coated surfaces.