Thickening of the basement membrane zone (BMZ) is a characteristic of several airway diseases; however, very little is known about how this process occurs. The purpose of this study was to define development of the BMZ in the trachea of growing rhesus monkeys at 1, 2, 3, and 6 mo of age. We measured immunoreactivity of collagen types I, III, and V to detect structural changes in the developing BMZ. To detect more dynamic, functional components of the epithelial-mesenchymal trophic unit, we evaluated the distribution of perlecan, fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), and fibroblast growth factor receptor-1 (FGFR-1). One-month-old monkeys had a mean collagen BMZ width of 1.5 ± 0.7 μm that increased to 4.4 ± 0.4 μm in 6-mo-old monkeys. Perlecan was localized in the BMZ of the epithelium at all ages. FGF-2 was strongly expressed in basal cells at 1-3 mo. At 6 mo, FGF-2 was expressed throughout the BMZ and weakly in basal cells. FGFR-1 immunoreactivity was expressed by basal cells and cilia and weakly in the nuclei of columnar cells at all time points. These data indicate that development of the BMZ is a postnatal event in the rhesus monkey that involves FGF-2.