Renal organogenesis ensues following reciprocal interactions between the uninduced metanephric mesenchyme and the ureteric bud. Conceivably, the presence of ligands or growth factors on a given cell type, and expression of receptors, including receptor proto-oncogenes, on the other cell type of different lineage would facilitate such epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. During these interactions, other macromolecules, such as extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, present at the epithelial-mesenchymal surface, also play a role in the kidney morphogenesis. In this study the proto-oncogene, c-ros, was cloned and sequenced; its role in the metanephric development was examined, and correlated with the changes in the expression of ECM proteins. The mouse c-ros renal cDNA, belonging to phosphotyrosine kinase (PTK) receptor family, had a translation product of 2340 amino acids. The extracellular domain had 32 N-linked glycosylation sites and 30 cysteine residues. The transmembrane segment had a hydrophobicity approaching approximately 3.5. Multiple phosphorylation sites, typical of a PTK catalytic unit, were present in the cytoplasmic domain. The 3' noncoding region did not contain any A(U)nA mRNA instability motifs. The c-ros mRNA was highly expressed on the ureteric bud branches and their tips and on the developing glomeruli. Competitive RT-PCR analyses revealed the c-ros expression was the highest at 13th day of gestation, and it declined to very low levels during the neonatal period. Exposure of metanephric kidneys to c-ros antisense-oligonucleotide, derived from the PTK domain, caused dysmorphogenesis of the kidney and loss of c-ros expression on the ureteric bud branches. Concomitant with the reduced c-ros gene expression, a decreased expression of ECM glycoproteins, in particular the proteoglycans, was observed. These findings suggest that the c-ros plays a role in the metanephric development, and its effects may be modulated by the ECM macromolecules present at the epithelial-mesenchymal interface.