Basement membrane structures, or their main component, type IV collagen, have been detected in all multicellular animal species, except sponges. We cancel this exception by the demonstration of type IV collagenous sequences in a new marine sponge species by cDNA and genomic DNA studies. One of these sequences is long enough to demonstrate the specific characteristics of type IV collagen chains. The 12 cysteines are at conserved positions in the carboxyl-terminal non-helical NCl domain, as are the interruptions in the carboxyl-terminal end of the triple helical domain. The gene organization of the region coding for the NCl domain is similar to that of the human genes COL4A2, COL4A4 and COL4A6. An additional, shorter sequence suggests the presence of a second chain. The expected tissue localization of this collagen has been confirmed using polyclonal antibodies raised against a sponge recombinant protein. These results demonstrate that type IV collagen is representated in all animal phyla. It is actually the only known ubiquitous collagen and it has at least two different alpha chains in all the species where it has been characterized.