To study the formation of basement membrane by glomerular epithelial cells (GECs), production and secretion of type IV collagen and laminin by rat GECs in culture were evaluated. GECs produced two chains of type IV collagen (180 and 170 kDa) in the ratio of approximately 2 to 1, when immunoprecipitated with antibody to type IV collagen of mouse Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm (EHS) sarcoma. GECs also produced proteins that were precipitated by antibody to EHS laminin, i.e., two bands each in the positions of the A and B chains of mouse laminin. On enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), type IV collagen and laminin were found mainly in the cell-associated fraction and in the subepithelial culture medium. Confluent GECs on membrane filters formed a tight barrier against the flux of macromolecules. Under these conditions, 80% of newly synthesized and secreted matrix proteins were detected in the basolateral medium. Moreover, treatment with ammonium chloride, which is known to affect polarized secretion, caused both type IV collagen and laminin to be secreted via the basolateral and apical surfaces in similar amounts. These results indicate that cultured GECs are polarized and that they produce and secrete basement membrane components via the basolateral side.