Previous observations (Stolle, C.A., Pyeritz, R.E., Myers, J.C., and Prockop, D.J. (1985) J. Biol. Chem. 260, 1937-1944) indicated that fibroblasts from a proband with dominantly inherited Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type IV synthesized type III procollagen with a structural defect near the collagenase cleavage site at amino acid 781 and near the trypsin-sensitive site at 789. The type III procollagen was unusually sensitive to proteinases and cleaved by trypsin into a three-quarter fragment at 0 degrees C. Here we demonstrate that the mutation in the type III procollagen gene is a single base mutation that converts the codon for glycine at amino acid 790 of the alpha 1(III) chain to a codon for serine. The mutation probably makes the procollagen molecule unusually sensitive to proteases because it causes local unfolding of the triple helix and exposes the adjacent arginine residue. The results provide the first indication that not all glycine substitutions in the triple helices of fibrillar collagens are equivalent in terms of their effects of the biological function of the molecule.