The nature of the laminin alpha chains in the embryonic and adult kidney is still being debated. The present study attempted to clarify this issue by immunofluorescence study using monoclonal antibodies against mouse alpha1, alpha2, and alpha5 chains and in situ hybridization for the alpha2, alpha3B, alpha4, and alpha5 mRNAs. Novel alpha1 chain-specific monoclonal antibodies against E8 fragment revealed a restricted distribution of alpha1 chain in a subset of epithelial basement membranes in the embryo, in agreement with previous mRNA data. The alpha2 mRNA was produced by mesenchyme, although the protein was deposited in epithelial basement membranes. The alpha3B mRNA was found only in a small subset of endothelial cells. The alpha4 mRNA was found transiently in embryonic mesenchyme, with particularly high levels in condensed mesenchyme, close to the tips of the ureteric tree where tubulogenesis is initiated. The alpha5 mRNA was strongly expressed by ureter epithelium but not expressed at early stages of tubulogenesis. Immunofluorescence verified low levels of the alpha5 chain in the early stages of tubulogenesis. However, during the capillary loop stage, the alpha5 chain became strongly expressed in the developing glomerular basement membrane, which matches the in situ hybridization results. During subsequent maturation of the kidney, the alpha5 chain became ubiquitously expressed in basement membranes. Overall, the alpha5 chain exhibited the broadest pattern of expression, followed by the alpha1 chain, particularly in the adult stage. These chains were the only ones produced by epithelial cells. Although some basement membranes contained several alpha chains, we failed to detect any of the five studied chains in some basement membranes. Thus, the identity of the alpha chains of many embryonic kidney blood vessels and several basement membranes in the inner medulla in the developing and adult kidney remain unclear.