Biomaterials developed for tissue engineering and wound healing applications need to support robust cell adhesion, yet also need to be replaced by new tissue synthesized by those cells. In order to maintain mechanical integrity of the tissue, the cells must generate sufficient extracellular matrix before the scaffold is degraded. We have previously shown that materials containing cell adhesive ligands to promote or improve cell adhesion can decrease extracellular matrix production (Mann et al., Modification of surfaces with cell adhesion peptides alters extracellular matrix deposition. Biomaterials 1999;20:2281-6). Such decreased matrix production by cells in tissue engineering scaffolds may result in tissue failure. However, we have found that TGF-beta1 can be used in scaffolds to dramatically increase matrix production. Matrix production by vascular smooth muscle cells grown on adhesive ligand-modified glass surfaces and in PEG hydrogels containing covalently bound adhesive ligands was increased in the presence of 0.04 pmol/ml (1 ng/ml) TGF-beta1. TGF-beta1 can counteract the effect of these adhesive ligands on matrix production; matrix production could be increased even above that observed in the absence of adhesive peptides. Further, TGF-beta1 covalently immobilized to PEG retained its ability to increase matrix production. Tethering TGF-beta1 to the polymer scaffold resulted in a significant increase in matrix production over the same amount of soluble TGF-beta1.