The composition of glomerular crescents was examined on the frozen kidney sections obtained from 10 patients (5 patients with IgA nephropathy, two with Henoch-Schönlein purpura nephritis and three with glomerulonephritis due to undetermined etiology) using well-defined monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies to coagulation proteins, extracellular matrices, intermediate filament proteins and immune cells. Fibrinogen/fibrin related antigens (FRA), which were stained with anti-fibrinogen serum, were positive in the crescents of all the patients, but monoclonal antibody to crosslinked fibrin or von Willebrand factor (factor VIII related) antigen did not bind to the crescents. This suggests that the FRA deposited in the crescents is fibrinogen or its degradation products rather than fibrin. Staining for intrinsic components of renal basement membrane, including type IV and V collagens, laminin and fibronectin, were consistently positive in all stages of the crescents. Cytokeratin, showing cytoplasmic staining of the glomerular parietal epithelium and tubular epithelium in the normal kidney, was demonstrated in three patients with cellular crescents. Vimentin, which is normally distributed in parietal and visceral epithelial cells in the glomeruli and interstitial cells, was found at all stages of the crescents. These findings suggest that in the early stage of crescent formation, glomerular epithelial cells play an important role, and that the accumulation of intrinsic basement membrane constituents is associated with the formation and progression of the crescents. None of the crescent cells reacted with either of two monoclonal antibodies (Mo2 and FMC 32) to monocytes/macrophages or with nonspecific esterase staining. It seems that, at least in our patients, monocytes are a minor factor contributing to the formation of glomerular crescents.