Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type IV (EDS type IV) results from heterozygosity for mutations in the COL3A1 gene that encodes the chains of type III procollagen. By using light, transmission, and scanning electron microscopy, we examined skin biopsies from 22 individuals with EDS type IV in whom the COL3A1 mutations had been identified. The most striking changes in EDS type IV were correlated with point mutations that substituted a residue for a glycine near the carboxyl-terminal end of the triple-helical domain of pro alpha1(III). In three cases with the mutation G1012R, G1018V, or G1021E, cells in the dermis had extremely dilated rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), the dermis was thin, and there was a reduced proportion of collagen although the proportion of elastic fibers appeared increased. In these tissues, collagen fibrils were small (65-80 nm) compared to normal (95-110 nm). Fibrils 80-90 nm in diameter and moderately dilated RER were found with mutations G769R, G373R, and G061E and with exon-skipping mutations of exons 34 and 45. With mutations G034R and G016C and exon-skipping mutations that deleted the sequences of exons 7, 8, 14, 18, 24, and 27, fibrils were more variable in size (85-120 nm). The composite collagen fibrils characteristic of EDS types I and II were not found in EDS type IV. These findings indicate that mutations in the COL3A1 gene have effects on secretion, fibrillogenesis, and skin architecture that reflect the position and nature of the mutation.