In fracture healing, a large amount of cartilage is formed, then rapidly replaced by osseous tissue. This process requires the transition of extracellular matrix component from type II to type I collagen. We investigated the expression of matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13), which has a high potential to cleave type II as well as type I collagen, during fracture repair in mouse ribs. In situ hybridization demonstrated that MMP-13 mRNA was present throughout the healing process. It was detected in the cells of the periosteum at day 1. As fracture callus grew, strong MMP-13 mRNA signals were detected in cells of the cartilaginous callus. In the reparative and remodeling phases, both hypertrophic chondrocytes and immature osteoblastic cells in the fracture callus expressed MMP-13 mRNA strongly. These cells were located adjacent to tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positive osteoclasts at the sites of cartilage/bone transition. In osteoclasts, MMP-13 expression was not detected. The level of MMP-13 mRNA peaked at day 14 postfracture by northern blotting. Immunohistochemical staining showed that MMP-13 was detected primarily in hypertrophic chondrocytes. These results indicate that MMP-13 is induced during fracture healing. The site- and cell-specific expression of MMP-13 and its enzymatic property suggest that MMP-13 initiates the degradation of cartilage matrix, resulting in resorption and remodeling of the callus. In conclusion, MMP-13 plays an important role in the healing process of fractured bone in mice.