Abstract Although the presence of ‘cartilage-specific’ collagens in the eye has been documented earlier, very little is known about their synthesis rates during ocular development, growth and aging. The purpose of the present study was to follow changes in the mRNA levels and distribution of key components of the extracellular matrix in the eyes of normal and transgenic Del1 mice, harboring a short deletion mutation in the type II collagen gene, during ocular growth and aging. Total RNAs extracted from mouse eyes were studied by Northern analysis for mRNA levels of type I, II, III, VI, IX and XI collagens, biglycan, fibromodulin and decorin. A predominant finding of the present study was the marked reduction in the mRNA levels of type I and II collagens in the eye upon aging. The changes in the mRNA levels of type III and VI collagen and proteoglycans were smaller. Localization of type II and IX collagen in the eye was performed by immunohistochemistry. Despite the reduction in the type II collagen mRNA levels, immunohistochemistry confirmed widespread distribution of the protein also in aging mouse eyes, suggesting its slow turnover. Although the Del1 mutation caused gradual degenerative lesions in the eyes, the distribution of the protein remained essentially unchanged. The widespread distribution and marked downregulation of type II collagen production in the mouse eye upon aging probably explain the gradual development of degenerative lesions, particularly in the eyes of transgenic Del1 mice, where production of mutant type II collagen chains also contributes to the process.