The inner limiting membrane (ILM) and the vitreous body (VB) are two major extracellular matrix (ECM) structures that are essential for early eye development. The ILM is considered to be the basement membrane of the retinal neuroepithelium, yet in situ hybridization and chick/quail transplant experiments in organ-cultured eyes showed that all components critical for ILM assembly, such as laminin or collagen IV, are not synthesized by the retina. Rather, ILM proteins, with the exception of agrin, originate from the lens or (and) ciliary body and are shed into the vitreous. The VB serves as a reservoir providing high concentrations of ILM proteins for the instant assembly of new ILM during rapid embryonic eye growth. The function of the retina in ILM assembly is to provide the cellular receptor proteins for the binding of the ILM proteins from the vitreous. The VB is a gelatinous ECM structure that fills the vitreous cavity of the eye. Its major structural proteins, collagen II and fibrillin, originate primarily from the ciliary body. Reverse transcription-PCR and western blotting show that the rate of synthesis of structural, monomeric ILM and VB proteins, such as laminin, collagen IV and II is very high during embryogenesis and very low in the adult. The downregulation of ILM and VB protein synthesis occurs during early postnatal life, and both ILM and VB are from then on maintained throughout life with minimum turnover. Our data explain why ILM and VB do not regenerate after vitrectomy and ILM peeling.