A previously characterized chick model of myopia was used to evaluate biochemical changes in the sclera which are associated with ocular enlargement and myopia. Chicks were monocularly occluded for 10 days and the DNA, hydroxyproline, and glycosaminoglycan contents of the sclera were compared between the normal and the myopic eyes. No significant differences could be detected in total DNA or hydroxyproline content. There was, however, a 34% increase in glycosaminoglycans and a 20.7% decrease in cell density within the posterior sclera of myopic eyes. The biosynthesis of scleral proteoglycans was determined by measuring 35SO4 incorporation in the sclera of chicks visually occluded for 5, 10, and 15 days. No differences could be detected in 35SO4 incorporation into the cornea or the anterior sclera. However, 35SO4 incorporation was significantly increased in the posterior sclera of myopic eyes by 64% at Day 5, 39% at Day 10, and 49% at Day 15. When fractionated on Sepharose CL-4B, scleral proteoglycans were resolved into two peaks which were identified by Western blot analysis as aggrecan (cartilage proteoglycan) and decorin. Furthermore, Western blot and dot blot analyses indicated that significantly more aggrecan core protein was present in the sclera of myopic eyes compared with equivalent amounts of sclera from control eyes. These results indicate that increased synthesis and accumulation of aggrecan, which increases the volume of extracellular matrix in the posterior sclera, are responsible for the ocular enlargement observed in this model of myopia.