Laminin α1 (LAMA1), a subunit of the laminin-111 basement membrane component, has been implicated in various biological functions in vivo and in vitro. Although LAMA1 is present in kidney, its roles in the kidney are unknown because of early embryonic lethality. Herein, we used a viable conditional knockout mouse model with a deletion of Lama1 in the epiblast lineage (Lama1CKO) to study the role of LAMA1 in kidney development and function. Adult Lama1CKO mice developed focal glomerulosclerosis and proteinuria with age. In addition, mesangial cell proliferation was increased, and the mesangial matrix, which normally contains laminin-111, was greatly expanded. In vitro, mesangial cells from Lama1CKO mice exhibited significantly increased proliferation compared with those from controls. This increased proliferation was inhibited by the addition of exogenous LAMA1-containing laminin-111, but not by laminin-211 or laminin-511, suggesting a specific role for LAMA1 in regulating mesangial cell behavior. Moreover, the absence of LAMA1 increased transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1-induced Smad2 phosphorylation, and inhibitors of TGF-β1 receptor I kinase blocked Smad2 phosphorylation in both control and Lama1CKO mesangial cells, indicating that the increased Smad2 phosphorylation occurred in the absence of LAMA1 via the TGF-β1 receptor. These findings suggest that LAMA1 plays a critical role in kidney function and kidney aging by regulating the mesangial cell population and mesangial matrix deposition through TGF-β/Smad signaling.