The nephritogenic antigen, responsible for the immunogenic stimulus in experimental allergic glomerulonephritis induced with tubular antigen, has been identified as a renal tubular epithelial (RTE)-specific antigen and has been isolated in a relatively purified form. This antigen, RTE-alpha(5), is a distinct and antigenically specific lipoprotein of high density which is derived primarily from the brush border of proximal convoluted tubular epthelium of the rat kidney. It has been suggested that this molecule may be a plasma membrane subunit. Immunization of rats with as little as 3 microg N of RTE-alpha(5) in complete Freund's adjuvant has effectively induced this form of membranous glomerulonephritis. RTE-alpha(5) is not a constituent of normal rat glomeruli; however, with the onset of autologous immune complex nephritis it is deposited in a granular fashion along glomerular capillary walls indistinguishable from the deposits of gamma-globulin and complement. The antigenic specificity of this antigen and its tissue derivation has been explored, and the observations support the autologous immune complex pathogenesis of the glomerulonephritis induced in rats by immunization with renal tubular antigen.