Endothelial specialization is a prominent feature within distinct capillary beds of organs such as mammalian kidney, yet immunological markers for functionally distinct subpopulations of cultured endothelial cells from tissue sources such as kidney have not been available. We developed a simple and reproducible isolation and culture procedure to recover human renal microvascular endothelial cells (HRMEC) from the cortex of unused donor kidneys. This procedure yields highly purified preparations of cells that display endothelial markers that include Factor VIII antigen, acetyl-LDL receptors, and determinants that bind Ulex europaeus lectin. HRMEC assemble into capillary-like cord and tube structures when plated on the surface of basement membrane-like matrix (BMM) in media containing phorbol myristate acetate. To further define subpopulations of HRMEC, we generated a panel of monoclonal antibodies and screened for those recognizing cell surface determinants. One monoclonal antibody recovery from this screen recognized a cell surface protein expressed on a subpopulation of HRMEC that we have designated PEC-1 (pioneer endothelial cell antigen-1). Cells expressing PEC-1 extended long, interconnecting filopodial processes in response to phorbol myristate acetate and assembled into capillary-like structures when plated on BMM. Anti-PEC-1 immunoprecipitated proteins of 25 and 27 kDa. Magnetic bead separation of PEC-1 (+) cells selected cells that assemble into capillary-like cord and tube structures. The remaining PEC-1 (-) HRMEC population formed matrix adherent patches. In the kidney, the PEC-1 determinant is expressed on a small subpopulation of microvascular glomerular cells and is prominently expressed on the apical membrane of proximal tubule cells. The PEC-1 determinant discriminates among subpopulations of HRMEC, identifying a subpopulation that contributes to assembly of capillary-like structures.