The secreted metalloprotease ADAMTS5 is implicated in destruction of the cartilage proteoglycan aggrecan in arthritis, but its physiological functions are unknown. Its expression profile during embryogenesis and in adult tissues is therefore of considerable interest. beta-Galactosidase (beta-gal) histochemistry, enabled by a LacZ cassette inserted in the Adamts5 locus, and validated by in situ hybridization with an Adamts5 cRNA probe and ADAMTS5 immunohistochemistry, was used to profile Adamts5 expression during mouse embryogenesis and in adult mouse tissues. Embryonic expression was scarce prior to 11.5 days of gestation (E11.5) and noted only in the floor plate of the developing brain at E 9.5. After E11.5 there was continued expression in brain, especially in the choroid plexus, peripheral nerves, dorsal root ganglia, cranial nerve ganglia, spinal and cranial nerves, and neural plexuses of the gut. In addition to nerves, developing limbs have Adamts5 expression in skeletal muscle (from E13.5), tendons (from E16.5), and inter-digital mesenchyme of the developing autopod (E13.5-15.5). In adult tissues, there is constitutive Adamts5 expression in arterial smooth muscle cells, mesothelium lining the peritoneal, pericardial and pleural cavities, smooth muscle cells in bronchi and pancreatic ducts, glomerular mesangial cells in the kidney, dorsal root ganglia, and in Schwann cells of the peripheral and autonomic nervous system. Expression of Adamts5 during neuromuscular development and in smooth muscle cells coincides with the broadly distributed proteoglycan versican, an ADAMTS5 substrate. These observations suggest the major contexts in which developmental and physiological roles could be sought for this protease.