Collagen type IV, laminin, heparan sulfate proteoglycans, nidogen (entactin) and BM-40 (osteonectin, SPARC) represent major structural proteins of basement membranes. They are well-characterized in their domain structures, amino acid sequences and potentials for molecular interactions. Such interactions include self-assembly processes and heterotypic binding between individual constituents, as well as binding of calcium (laminin, BM-40) and are likely to be used for basement membrane assembly. Laminin, collagen IV and nidogen also possess several cell-binding sites which interact with distinct cellular receptors. Some evidence exists that those interactions are involved in the control of cell behaviour. These observations have provided a more defined understanding of basement membrane function and the definition of new research goals in the future.