Urinary concentrations of type IV collagen in patients with diabetic nephropathy were measured by a highly sensitive, one-step sandwich enzyme immunoassay. Samples from 298 patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and 80 healthy controls were examined. In diabetic patients with macroalbuminuria or renal insufficiency, the concentrations of urinary type IV collagen were significantly higher than those of diabetic patients with normoalbuminuria or healthy controls (P < 0.001). Urinary type IV collagen concentration in diabetic patients with microalbuminuria was significantly higher than that in diabetic patients with normoalbuminuria or that in healthy controls (P < 0.001). In contrast, there were no significant changes in the concentration of serum type IV collagen between microalbuminuric patients and normoalbuminuric patients. The area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve for the urinary type IV collagen concentration was equivalent to that of urinary albumin. It was concluded that urinary type IV collagen concentration determined using this method might be a useful marker for the early detection of diabetic nephropathy.