The osteochondrodysplasia rat (ocd/ocd) is a lethal dwarfism. The ocd/ocd shows histological abnormalities of the epiphysis, characterized by a decrease in amount of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in the extracellular matrix (ECM). The present study describes histochemical and immunohistochemical distributions of GAGs, type II collagen, and fibronectin (FN) in abnormal humeral cartilage of the ocd/ocd fetuses on days 16-21 of gestation. A wide-spread region with severe necrosis was observed in the cartilage on days 20 and 21. The affected cartilage has small amounts of ECM, irregular columnizations, thinner hypertrophic zones, and expanded and pyknotic chondrocytes on days 16-21 of gestation. The severely expanded chondrocytes did not have cytoplasmic glycogens on days 19-21. Reactions for chondroitin sulfate (CS) and hyaluronic acid (HA) in the ECM were consistently lower in ocd/ocd than in +/+ during the entire period of observation, although there were granules immunoreactive to CS within the chondrocytes of ocd/ocd. The distribution of type II collagen seemed normal in relatively normal regions in the affected cartilage. Strong reactions for CS, HA, type II collagen, and FN were present in the necrotic region on days 20 and 21 of gestation. These findings suggest that the affected chondrocyte may have some defects in releasing ECM substances, which may be released by the process of cell rupture. We hypothesize that some defects in releasing processes inherent to the ocd/ocd cartilage may relate to cellular differentiation and cell death.