The novel extracellular matrix glycoprotein tenascin was studied immunohistochemically in normal and fibrotic human liver. Its localization was compared to that of laminin, fibronectin and collagen type IV. In the normal liver, a weak staining for tenascin was detected along sinusoids, while portal tracts were negative. In both alcoholic and cholestatic liver disease and acute and chronic hepatitis, sinusoidal immunoreactivity for tenascin was variably increased as compared to the normal liver. Most striking, however, was the preferential accumulation of tenascin at connective tissue-parenchymal interfaces between proliferating ductules and in areas of piecemeal necrosis. As compared to laminin, fibronectin and collagen type IV, tenascin has the most restricted distribution. Our findings indicate that tenascin is a component of the extracellular matrix of the human liver. Its preferential expression at connective tissue-parenchymal interfaces in fibrosing areas in contrast to its absence from mature fibrous septa suggest a transient role in early matrix organization.