We have recently demonstrated the formation of interconnecting canalicular cell processes in bone cells upon contact with basement membrane components. Here we have determined whether growth factors in the reconstituted basement membrane (Matrigel) were active in influencing the cellular network formation. Various growth factors including transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulin-like growth factor 1, bovine fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) were identified in Matrigel. Exogenous TGF-beta blocked the cellular network formation. Conversely, addition of TGF-beta 1 neutralizing antibodies to Matrigel stimulated the cellular network formation. bFGF, EGF, and PDGF all promoted cellular migration and organization on Matrigel. Addition of bFGF to MC3T3-E1 cells grown on Matrigel overcame the inhibitory effect of TGF-beta. Some TGF-beta remained bound to type IV collagen purified from the Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm tumor matrix. These data demonstrate that reconstituted basement membrane contains growth factors which influence cellular behavior, suggesting caution in the interpretation of experiments on cellular activity related to Matrigel, collagen type IV, and possibly other extracellular matrix components.