Using a monoclonal anti-tubular basement membrane antibody (alpha TBM-Ab) affinity column, we isolated from collagenase-solubilized human renal tissue (HSRTA) a predominantly 48,000-mol-wt moiety (H3M-1) which is selectively recognized by antisera from two patients with alpha TBM-Ab-associated interstitial nephritis (alpha TBM disease). Whereas both antisera had alpha TBM-Ab titers of 1:64-1:128 by immunofluorescence on tissue sections, their reactivity with H3M-1 in a solid-phase radioimmunoassay was demonstrable at dilutions up to 1:10,000. While these sera displayed some reactivity with pre-column HSRTA, this was markedly less than with H3M-1. HSRTA depleted of H3M-1 by passage over the alpha TBM-Ab affinity column was almost completely depleted of reactivity. Neither pooled normal human sera nor sera from patients with a variety of renal lesions not associated with alpha TBM-Ab (including interstitial nephritis and antiglomerular basement membrane disease) were reactive with H3M-1. Both patient antisera containing alpha TBM-Ab were also highly reactive with R3M-1, the 48,000-mol-wt rabbit glycoprotein antigen of experimental alpha TBM disease. Furthermore, a competitive inhibition radioimmunoassay revealed that alpha TBM-Ab from rodents with experimental alpha TBM disease could inhibit 45-98% of the R3M-1 binding reactivity of patient antisera and 85% of the H3M-1 binding reactivity of patient antisera, thus suggesting paratypic cross-reactivity. We conclude, therefore, that tubular basement membrane target epitopes and their paratypic recognition are highly conserved among mammals.