In view of the major alterations which take place at the level of the extracellular matrix of the glomerular wall in diabetes mellitus and the key roles played by beta 1 integrins in cell-to-matrix interactions, it is imperative to understand the role played by integrins in the development of diabetic glomerulosclerosis. In the present study, we revealed by immunocytochemistry the ultrastructural distribution of the alpha 3 beta 1 at the level of the plasma membrane of the different renal glomerular cells from short- and long-term diabetic rats. For the endothelial cells, the labelling present on both the luminal and abluminal plasma membranes was low. For the podocyte epithelial cells, the labelling was present on both the luminal and basal plasma membranes, the former being concentrated at points of contact between podocyte foot processes. The labelling on the basal plasma membrane was more significant and similar in domains facing either the glomerular basement membrane or the mesangial matrix. The plasma membrane of mesangial cells also exhibited alpha 3 beta 1. The labelling was recorded under diabetic conditions, at the same sites, with similar intensities, alongside that of the basal plasma membrane of podocytes facing the glomerular basement membrane, the density of which decreased significantly. This decrease in labelling was similar in renal tissues from short- and long-term diabetic animals. These results demonstrate that alpha 3 beta 1 present at the podocyte basal plasma membrane facing the glomerular basement membrane, which undergoes important alterations in diabetes, could be involved in the major dysfunctions of the glomerular wall characteristic of diabetic glomerulosclerosis. Since the changes in integrin were found to occur as early as after 1 month of hyperglycaemia, when morphological alterations of the glomerular basement membrane are not yet established, we propose that they constitute an early event which precedes the onset of diabetic nephropathy.