Triple helix formation of procollagen after the assembly of three alpha-chains at the C-propeptide is a prerequisite for refined structures such as fibers and meshworks. Hsp47 is an ER-resident stress inducible glycoprotein that specifically and transiently binds to newly synthesized procollagens. However, the real function of Hsp47 in collagen biosynthesis has not been elucidated in vitro or in vivo. Here, we describe the establishment of Hsp47 knockout mice that are severely deficient in the mature, propeptide-processed form of alpha1(I) collagen and fibril structures in mesenchymal tissues. The molecular form of type IV collagen was also affected, and basement membranes were discontinuously disrupted in the homozygotes. The homozygous mice did not survive beyond 11.5 days postcoitus (dpc), and displayed abnormally orientated epithelial tissues and ruptured blood vessels. When triple helix formation of type I collagen secreted from cultured cells was monitored by protease digestion, the collagens of Hsp47+/+ and Hsp47+/- cells were resistant, but those of Hsp47-/- cells were sensitive. These results indicate for the first time that type I collagen is unable to form a rigid triple-helical structure without the assistance of molecular chaperone Hsp47, and that mice require Hsp47 for normal development.