We have compared the pattern of lectin staining with the ultrastructural features of kidneys from normal cats and 19 cats with 6 different lysosomal storage diseases. The diseases studied include GM1 and GM2 gangliosidosis, mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS)-I and MPS-VI, sphingomyelin-lipidosis (i.e., Niemann-Pick disease) and mannosidosis. Ten different biotinylated lectins were used as histochemical probes for carbohydrate residues and avidin-biotin-peroxidase complex as visualant. Concanavalia ensiformis agglutinin (Con A) stained mesangial cells in all storage diseases but GM1, epithelial cells in sphingomyelin-lipidosis and mannosidosis, endothelial cells in GM1 and mannosidosis and Bowman's capsule cells in all but GM2. Griffonia simplicifolia agglutinin I (GS-I) stained the glomerular endothelium in all six diseases, but not in control kidneys. Ricinus communis agglutinin-I (RCA-I) stained the glomerular epithelium only in GM1 and MPS-I. Succinylated wheat germ agglutinin (SWGA) stained the glomerular endothelium and epithelium in mannosidosis, and the glomerular epithelium and Bowman's capsule in MPS-I. Ultrastructure studies demonstrated an accumulation of oligosaccharides in cases of mannosidosis and GM1 gangliosidosis, a mixture of oligosaccharides and lipids in MPS-I, MPS-VI and GM2 gangliosidosis and only lipid storage in sphingomyelin lipidosis. These studies show that morphologic and histochemical changes are manifested in some kidney cell types in lysosomal storage diseases, even though the enzyme deficiency occurs in all cell types. Furthermore, we show that the nature of the undegraded stored material is complex and that other factors, such as rate of membrane turn over, membrane composition, and cell function may influence the amount and nature of the "stored" material.