Type X collagen, a homotrimer of alpha 1 (X) polypeptide chains, is specifically expressed by hypertrophic chondrocytes in regions of cartilage undergoing endochondral ossification. We have previously described the isolation of a small fragment of the human type X collagen gene (COL10A1) and its localization to the q21-q22 region of human chromosome 6 [Apte, S., Mattei, M.-G. & Olsen, B. R. (1991) FEBS Lett. 282, 393-396]. Using this fragment as a probe to screen genomic libraries, we report here the isolation of human and mouse genomic clones which contain the major part of the human and mouse type X collagen genes. In both species, the 14-kb genomic clones which were isolated contain a long open reading frame (greater than 2000 bp in length) which codes for the entire C-terminal non-collagenous (NC1) domain, the entire collagenous (COL) domain and part of the N-terminal non-collagenous (NC2) domain of the alpha 1(X) collagen chain. The human genomic clone contains the major part of the COL10A1 gene, in addition to the region we have previously cloned, and is highly similar to the corresponding portions of the mouse genomic clone (84.5% similarity at the nucleotide level, and 86.1% at the level of the conceptual translation product). The identification of the mouse genomic clone as the alpha 1(X) collagen gene (Col10a1) was confirmed by in situ hybridization of a fragment of the mouse genomic clone to sections from newborn mice. Hybridization was restricted to the hypertrophic chondrocytes of developing chondroepiphyses, being absent in small chondrocytes and in other tissues. Using interspecific backcross analysis, the locus for the mouse alpha 1 (X) collagen gene was assigned to chromosome 10. The cloning and chromosomal mapping of the human and mouse alpha 1 (X) collagen genes now permit the investigation of the possible role of type X collagen gene defects in the genesis of chondrodysplasias in both species and provide data essential for the generation of transgenic mice deficient in type X collagen.