We have shown previously that the 5' ends of the genes for the alpha 5(IV) and alpha 6(IV) collagen chains lie head-to-head on Xq22 and are deleted in patients with Alport syndrome (AS)-associated diffuse leiomyomatosis. In this study, we raised a rabbit anti-human alpha 6(IV)chain antibody, demonstrated its specificity by the analysis of recombinant NC1 domains af all six type IV chains, and studied the distribution of the alpha 6(IV) chain in relation to the alpha 1(IV) and alpha 5(IV) chains in human adult and fetal tissues involved in AS and diffuse leiomyomatosis. The alpha 6(IV) chain colocalizes with the alpha 5(IV) chain in basement membranes (BMs) of many tissues, but not in glomerular BM. These data exclude the alpha 6(IV) chain as a site for AS mutations. The head-to-head genomic pairing of the alpha 5(IV) and alpha 6 (IV) genes implies coordinate transcription of the two genes. Differential localization of the alpha 5(IV) and alpha 6(IV) chains shows that the two chains are not always coordinately regulated. The alpha 6(IV) chain, together with the alpha 3(IV)-alpha 5(IV) chains, was absent from all renal BMs in eight patients with X-linked AS while the alpha 1(IV) and alpha 2(IV) chains were increased. The data support the existence of two independent collagen networks, one for the alpha 3(IV)-alpha 6(IV) chains and one for the alpha 1(IV) and alpha 2(IV) chains.