We used immunoperoxidase staining and double immunofluorescent staining to demonstrate the macromolecular components of the extracellular matrix of the lamina cribrosa from young human donors. The cribriform plates were made up of a core of elastin fibers with a sparse, patchy distribution of collagen type III. The plates were coated with collagen type IV and laminin; these basement membrane components were presumably made by the astrocytes that were distributed on the surfaces of the plates. The insertion of the lamina cribrosa in the sclera was made up of concentric, circumferential elastin fibers that surrounded the lamina cribrosa and were continuous with the elastin in the cribriform plates. Astrocytic processes extended into the bundles of elastin fibers, whereas the basement membrane components extended into the sclera. The mechanical properties of the macromolecules of the extracellular matrix of the lamina cribrosa may make this tissue compliant and sensitive to intraocular pressure. Perhaps individual differences in the macromolecular components of this tissue contribute to the glaucomatous changes in the optic nerve head.