Collagen is a structural protein used in the generation of a wide variety of animal extracellular matrices. The exoskeleton of the free-living nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, is a complex collagen matrix that is tractable to genetic research. Mutations in individual cuticle collagen genes can cause exoskeletal defects that alter the shape of the animal. The complete sequence of the C. elegans genome indicates upwards of 150 distinct collagen genes that probably contribute to this structure. During the synthesis of this matrix, individual collagen genes are expressed in distinct temporal periods, which might facilitate the formation of specific interactions between distinct collagens.