Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is characterized by intraocular formation of fibroglial vascularized tissue by active vasoproliferative mechanisms. Using immunocytochemistry, we have studied changes in the distribution pattern of fibronectin (FN), laminin (LN), vitronectin (VN) and their receptors in the newly-formed capillaries of PDR. In intraocular vascularized tissue of PDR patients, FN was present on both luminal and basal surfaces of endothelial cells, and was diffusely distributed in the interpericyte space. LN was also associated with the interpericyte space. VN was occasionally detected on the luminal capillary side, but was frequent in the basal aspect of the endothelium in the interpericyte space, where it was colocalized with FN. Beta-1 subunit complex receptors were detected on the luminal side, while alpha v beta 3 integrin was identified on both sides, more so in the luminal than in the basal endothelial domain. By slot-blotting techniques and densitometric analysis, increased concentrations of intravitreous FN and VN were found in PDR in comparison with normal samples. These results suggest that FN, VN and LN have a key role in the structural arrangement of newly formed capillaries in PDR, and that receptor expression could be involved in events of endothelial cell adhesion and proliferation.