AIMS: To investigate the presence and distribution of vascular collagen type IV in colonic tissue in cases of angiodysplasia and age and sex matched controls. METHODS: Sections of colon from seven cases of colonic angiodysplasia and eight age and sex matched controls were examined for the presence of collagen type IV in vessels of the mucosa and submucosa. Immunohistochemical staining was performed on paraffin wax embedded sections, and the degree of vascular staining for each marker compared between mucosa and submucosa and between cases and controls. Staining for endothelial markers P-selection and factor VIII was used to control for non-specific differences in immunostaining. RESULTS: In both the angiodysplastic tissues and approximately half the control tissues, staining for collagen type IV was considerably weaker in vessels in the mucosa than in the submucosa. In angiodysplasia, ectatic vessels in the mucosa appeared to contain less collagen type IV than similarly sized vessels in the submucosa, and perforating vessels appeared in many cases to lose staining at the level of the muscularis mucosae. No differences were found in staining intensity for the control endothelial markers between cases and controls. CONCLUSIONS: The apparent relative deficiency of collagen type IV in the mucosal vessels in angiodysplasia may be related to their susceptibility to ectasia and haemorrhage. The finding of a similar deficiency in half of the control cases may reflect a population at risk of this relatively common condition.