Levels of IgA1, IgA2, IgM, and IgG antibodies specific for 10 ubiquitous food and bacterial antigens were examined by radioimmunoassay in the sera of 29 patients with IgA-associated renal diseases and 22 normal individuals. No significant differences were observed between patient and normal groups in the levels of IgA1 antibodies, and IgA2 antibodies were detected in only a few individuals in either group. Minor differences in IgM or IgG antibodies were seen against some antigens. Significant positive correlations between IgA1 and IgG and between IgA1 and IgM antibodies to casein were found in the patient group. Analysis of the molecular form of serum IgA1 antibodies revealed that although the pattern of polymeric and monomeric forms varied between individuals and between antibody specificities, there was no preponderance of one form in either patient or normal groups. Examination of kidney biopsies from 50 patients with IgA-associated renal diseases revealed that IgA1 represented the predominant subclass deposited in the glomerular mesangium; glomeruli from three patients contained both IgA1 and IgA2. Seventy-eight percent of the patients also had deposits of IgM, although IgA and IgM deposits did not always coincide. When IgG was present in glomeruli (45% of patients), the IgG1 subclass predominated. J chain was detectable in glomeruli of only four patients. C3 was detected in glomeruli of 95% of the patients, although the distribution of C3 did not always coincide with that of IgA. Indirect immunofluorescence staining with rabbit antisera to various environmental antigens showed that milk protein antigens could be deposited in association with IgA in the glomerular mesangium. © 1986 Plenum Publishing Corporation.