We examined the effect of aldehyde-modified matrix macromolecules on mesangial cell function in vitro, using incubated rat glomerular mesangial cells. Laminin and fibronectin were modified by incubation for 24 h with 50 mM glycolaldehyde (GA), a highly reactive cross-linking glycation product, with or without equimolar aminoguanidine. GA-modified laminin and fibronectin caused marked inhibition of cell adhesion. Cell spreading was reduced on the GA-modified laminin. In contrast, the GA-modified fibronectin had no effect on cell spreading. The study of thymidine incorporation by mesangial cells showed that the GA-modified fibronectin had a diminished mitogenic activity against cells. The content of advanced glycation end-product (AGE), which was determined by fluorescence at 370 nm excitation and 440 nm emission wavelength, increased and intermolecular cross-links appeared in the GA-modified proteins. To a large extent, aminoguanidine restored the structural alterations and functional deteriorations described above. We conclude that GA-modified matrix proteins diminish their functional properties against mesangial cells and affect cellular functions.