Identification and characterization of cells in glomerular tissue culture has been an ongoing concern of experimental renal biologists. We examined the immunocytochemical staining profiles of primary and passaged rat glomerular cultures using a battery of commercially available antisera. In all culture systems examined, two distinct cell populations could be distinguished. One cell type stained positively for desmin and had ultrastructurally smooth muscle features typical of contractile mesangial cells. The second cell type proliferated in a manner classically described for "epithelial" cells but, intriguingly, did not express any of the numerous epithelial markers tested. The second cell population may represent an undifferentiated reserve cell type. Immunocytochemical methods offer an independent modality to the evaluation of cells which proliferate in glomerular cell culture.