We have determined the primary structure of a 59 kd collagen binding protein which is present in many types of connective tissues, e.g. cartilage, tendon, skin, sclera and cornea. The amino acid sequence, deducted from a 2662 bp cDNA clone, predicts a 42 kd protein with a high content of leucine residues. Most of the protein consists of homologous 23 amino acid residues repeats with predominantly leucine residues in conserved positions. Similar leucine rich repeats have been identified in a number of proteins including the small interstitial proteoglycans decorin and PG-S1. The 59 kd protein and the two proteoglycans are homologous in their entire sequences suggesting that they have evolved from a common ancestral gene. The 59 kd protein and decorin are also functionally related in that both bind to collagen type I and II, and affect their fibrillogenesis. The substitution with glycosaminoglycan chains appears to be a feature shared by all three members of this family of leucine rich motif extracellular proteins, since the 59 kd protein isolated from cartilage is substituted with at least one keratan sulfate chain.