A mouse cDNA encoding for matrilin-3, the third member of the novel matrilin family of extracellular matrix proteins, was cloned. The protein precursor of 481 amino acids consists of a putative signal peptide, a short positively charged sequence, a single vWFA-like domain followed by four epidermal growth factor-like modules and a potential coiled-coil alpha-helical oligomerization domain at the C-terminus. It is the smallest member of the matrilin family with a predicted Mr of the mature protein of 48 902. The primary structure of a C-terminal portion of 310 amino acids of the human matrilin-3 was determined and showed a sequence identity to the mouse matrilin-3 of 84.8%. Northern blot hybridization of mouse matrilin-3 mRNA showed a 2.9 kb mRNA expressed in sternum, femur and trachea and indicates a cartilage-specific expression.