The combined Descemet's membrane (DM) and posterior collagenous layer (PCL) of Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy corneas were isolated and characterized by biochemical and immunofluorescence methods. The amino acid composition of the Fuchs' DM-PCL was similar to age-matched normal Descemet's membranes (DM). As determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and 125I two-dimensional peptide mapping, normal DM and Fuchs' DM-PCL contained the same collagen types [type IV and endothelial cell (EC) collagen], but a slight discrepancy was seen in the electrophoretic mobility of some collagen chains. Immunofluorescence staining localized fibrinogen/fibrin to Fuchs' DM-PCL but not to normal DM. These data suggest that the appearance of 110 nm banded material in sheets and fusiform bundles characteristic of Fuchs' PCL is not due to the presence of a new (abnormal) collagen type but may represent altered assembly of collagen molecules, and that the fibrinolytic system may play a role in the degenerative process of Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy.