We recently characterized three FGF-binding proteins (FGF-BPs) which are soluble forms of the extracellular domains of the high affinity FGF receptors (Hanneken, A. M., W. Ying, N. Ling, and A. Baird. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 1994. 91:9170-9174). These proteins circulate in blood and have been proposed to modulate the biological activity of the FGF family of proteins. Immunohistochemical studies now demonstrate that these soluble, truncated FGF receptors are also present in the basement membranes of retinal vascular endothelial cells. These immunoreactive proteins can be detected with antibodies raised to the extracellular domain of FGFR-1 but not with antibodies raised to either the juxtamembrane domain or the cytoplasmic domain of FGFR-1. Western blotting of human retinal extracts with the antibody raised to the extracellular domain of FGFR-1 detects specific, low molecular mass proteins at 85 kD and 55 kD, corresponding in size to the FGF-BPs, which are not detected with antibodies against the cytoplasmic domain of the receptor. The interaction of this receptor with the extracellular matrix is not dependent on the presence of FGF-2. Immunoreactive receptors are still detected in vascular basement membranes after the removal of FGF-2 with heparitinase. In addition, the recombinant extracellular domain of FGFR-1 continues to bind to corneal endothelial cell matrix after endogenous FGF-2 has been removed with 2 M NaCl. Acid treatment, which has been shown to disrupt protein interactions with the extracellular matrix, leads to a significant reduction in the presence of the matrix form of the FGF receptor. This loss can be restored with exogenous incubations of the recombinant extracellular domain of FGFR-1. This report is the first demonstration that a truncated form of a high affinity growth factor receptor can be localized to the extracellular matrix. These findings add to the list of binding proteins associated with the extracellular matrix (IGFBP-5) and suggest a potentially new regulatory mechanism for controlling the biological availability of FGF, and other peptide growth factors, in the extracellular matrix.