Interstitial collagens are thought to mediate epithelial-mesenchymal interactions during organogenesis. We have used the collagen I-deficient mouse mutant Mov13 to directly investigate the role of this major representative of the interstitial collagens in epithelial branching morphogenesis. Since homozygous embryos die at midgestation, we have studied the development of organ rudiments from Mov13 homozygous (i.e., collagen I-deficient), heterozygous, and wild-type embryos in culture. Development of all explants, including lung, kidney, salivary glands, pancreas, and skin, was normal by light and electron microscopic criteria and was independent of the genotype of the donor embryo. Metabolic labeling and immune staining verified the complete absence of collagen I in homozygous explants while revealing substantial production of collagens III and V in explants of all three genotypes. These results indicate either that collagen I has no role in the morphogenesis of these organs, or that its function is shared, or can be substituted for, by other fibrillar collagens.