Collagens are a family of proteins contributing to the body structure of eukaryotes. They are encoded by a large and diverse gene family in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans but by only a few genes in vertebrates. We have studied mutant alleles of the C. elegans dpy-7 gene, one of a large group of genes whose mutant phenotype is altered body form and several of which have previously been shown to encode cuticular collagens. We made use of the C. elegans physical map to screen specifically for collagen genes in the region of the X chromosome to which dpy-7 maps. This yielded a wild-type collagen gene clone which we showed, by micro-injection, could repair the dpy-7 mutant phenotype in transgenic animals. We cloned the homologous sequence from four dpy-7 mutant strains and by sequence analysis identified a single mutation in each case. All four mutations result in the substitution of a glycine with a larger residue in the conserved Gly-X-Y collagen domains. Similar substitutions in vertebrate collagens cause the heritable brittle bone disorder osteogenesis imperfecta. Whereas the human mutations are dominant, the dpy-7 mutations are recessive, and this may reflect different levels of complexity of collagenous macromolecular structures in the two organisms.