Angiogenesis, the growth of new vessels from existing microvasculature, is delayed in aged animals. In this study we asked whether this impairment might be due, in part, to changes in the expression of a growth factor, transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), and a matrix protein, type I collagen, which have been shown to regulate angiogenesis in vivo. We implanted polyvinyl alcohol sponges subcutaneously in the dorsa of young and aged mice and examined the sponges 7 to 21 days later for the presence of invasive fibrovascular bundles. Blood vessel ingrowth and proliferative activity were assessed by immunostain for von Willebrand factor and Ki-67, respectively. The fibrovascular bundles were also analyzed for TGF-beta1 and type I collagen. Relative to young mice, angiogenic invasion of sponges in aged mice was similar at 7 days, was diminished significantly (70%) at 14 days, but was again similar by 21 days after implantation. The expression of TGF-beta1 and type I collagen mRNA and protein in fibrovascular bundles was coincident but was also delayed (42 to 47%) at 14 days in the aged mice. Moreover, levels of active TGF-beta1 were decreased (48%) in the sera of aged relative to young mice. The delay in angiogenesis in aged mice was thus associated with decreased expression of TGF-beta1 and type I collagen by neovascular bundles. We conclude that changes in the levels of growth factors and proteins in the extracellular matrix contribute to impaired angiogenesis in aging.