Background: The skeletal neuromuscular junction is a useful model for elucidating mechanisms that regulate synaptogenesis. Developmentally important intercellular interactions at the neuromuscular junction are mediated by the synaptic portion of a basal lamina that completely ensheaths each muscle fiber. Basal laminas in general are composed of four main types of glycosylated proteins: laminins, collagens IV, heparan sulfate proteoglycans and nidogens (entactins). The portion of the muscle fiber basal lamina that passes between the motor nerve terminal and postsynaptic membrane has been shown to bear distinct isoforms of the first three of these. For laminins and collagens IV, the proteins are deposited by the muscle; a synaptic proteoglycan, z-agrin, is deposited by the nerve. In each case, the synaptic isoform plays key roles in organizing the neuromuscular junction. Here, we analyze the fourth family, composed of nidogen-1 and -2. Results: In adult muscle, nidogen-1 is present throughout muscle fiber basal lamina, while nidogen- 2 is concentrated at synapses. Nidogen-2 is initially present throughout muscle basal lamina, but is lost from extrasynaptic regions during the first three postnatal weeks. Neuromuscular junctions in mutant mice lacking nidogen-2 appear normal at birth, but become topologically abnormal as they mature. Synaptic laminins, collagens IV and heparan sulfate proteoglycans persist in the absence of nidogen-2, suggesting the phenotype is not secondary to a general defect in the integrity of synaptic basal lamina. Further genetic studies suggest that synaptic localization of each of the four families of synaptic basal lamina components is independent of the other three. Conclusion: All four core components of the basal lamina have synaptically enriched isoforms. Together, they form a highly specialized synaptic cleft material. Individually, they play distinct roles in the formation, maturation and maintenance of the neuromuscular junction.