The purpose of this study was to learn whether visual form deprivation, which produces myopia in the deprived eye, alters the scleral extracellular matrix in tree shrew, a mammal closely related to primates. Axial myopia was induced in 10 tree shrews by monocular deprivation imposed with a translucent diffuser. The other eye in each animal was an untreated control. After 21 days of deprivation the refractive state and axial component dimensions were measured and the eyes were assayed for levels of DNA, hydroxyproline, and sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGS) in samples of the sclera and the cornea. In comparison to the open control eye, the deprived eyes became myopic and elongated. In the sclera, DNA levels were not significantly changed from the control eye. Sulfated GAG levels were significantly lower in the deprived eyes, as compared to the control eyes, at the posterior pole ( -15.6%), at the nasal equatorial region (-18.1%), and in the rest of the sclera (-11.6%). The hydroxyproline level was significantly lower only at the posterior pole (-11.8%). Levels of sulfated GAGS were significantly reduced relative to DNA and relative to hydroxyproline in the total sclera. No significant changes were found in the cornea. The lower level of sulfated GAGs throughout the sclera of the deprived eyes, as compared with the control eyes, suggests that the deprived sclera contained less proteoglycan, or that the proteoglycans were less glycosylated or less sulfated. In contrast, the regional reduction of hydroxyproline suggests that collagen accumulation was specifically reduced only at the posterior pole of deprived eyes. These results suggest that form deprivation slows or reverses the normal process of extracellular matrix accumulation in the sclera of this mammal. This may allow the sclera to be more distensible, permitting the vitreous chamber elongation and resultant myopia. © 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd.