The parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) gene was disrupted in murine embryonic stem cells by homologous recombination, and the null allele was introduced into the mouse germ line. Mice homozygous for the PTHrP null mutation died postnatally, probably from asphyxia, and exhibited widespread abnormalities of endochondral bone development. Histological examination revealed a diminution of chondrocyte proliferation, associated with premature maturation of chondrocytes and accelerated bone formation. Analysis of earlier developmental stages revealed that disturbance in cartilage growth preceded abnormal endochondral bone formation. There were no morphological abnormalities apparent in other tissues. These results provide direct evidence implicating PTHrP in normal skeletal development and serve to emphasize its potential involvement in human osteochondrodysplasias.