A 66-kDa collagen fiber-associated protein (RGD-CAP) was isolated from a fiber-rich fraction of pig cartilage by ultrafiltration and collagen-affinity chromatography. Amino acid sequencing and cDNA cloning indicated that the RGD-CAP is identical or closely related to beta ig-h3 protein which is induced in human adenocarcinoma cells by transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) (Skonier, J., Neubauer, M., Madisen, L., Bennett, K., Plowman, G.D., and Purchio, A.F. (1992) DNA Cell. Biol. 11, 511-522). The RGD-CAP, as well as beta ig-h3, has the RGD sequence in the C-terminal region. The native RGD-CAP bound to type I, II, and IV collagens even in the presence of 1 M NaCl. A recombinant preparation of RGD-CAP expressed in Escherichia coli cells also bound to collagen but not to gelatin. The RGD-CAP mRNA was expressed in chondrocytes throughout all stages, although the expression level was highest during the prehypertrophic stage. In addition, TGF-beta increased the RGD-CAP mRNA level in chondrocyte cultures. Since RGD-CAP transcripts were found in most tissues, this novel collagen-binding protein may play an important role in cell-collagen interactions in various tissues including developing cartilage.