Hydrozoans such as Hydra vulgaris, as with all classes of Cnidaria, are characterized by having their body wall organized as an epithelial bilayer with an intervening acellular layer termed the mesoglea. The present study was undertaken to determine what extracellular matrix (ECM) components are associated with Hydra mesoglea. Using polyclonal antibodies generated from vertebrate ECM molecules, initial light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical studies indicated the presence of type IV collagen, laminin, heparan sulfate proteoglycan, and fibronectin immunoreactive components in Hydra mesoglea. These immunocytochemical observations were in part supported by biochemical analyses of isolated Hydra mesoglea which indicated the presence of fibronectin and laminin based on Western blot analysis. Amino acid analysis of total mesoglea and some of its isolated components confirmed the presence of collagen molecules in mesoglea. Additional studies indicated the presence of (1) a gelatin binding protein in Hydra which was immunoreactive with antibodies raised to human plasma fibronectin and (2) a noncollagen fragment extracted from mesoglea which was immunoreactive to antibodies raised to the NC1 domain (alpha 1 subunit) of bovine glomerular basement membrane type IV collagen. These observations indicate that Hydra mesoglea is evolutionarily a primitive basement membrane that has retained some properties of interstitial ECM.