The tissue distribution of type II and type IX collagen in 17-d-old chicken embryo was studied by immunofluorescence using polyclonal antibodies against type II collagen and a peptic fragment of type IX collagen (HMW), respectively. Both proteins were found only in cartilage where they were co-distributed. They occurred uniformly throughout the extracellular matrix, i.e., without distinction between pericellular, territorial, and interterritorial matrices. Tissues that undergo endochondral bone formation contained type IX collagen, whereas periosteal and membranous bones were negative. The thin collagenous fibrils in cartilage consisted of type II collagen as determined by immunoelectron microscopy. Type IX collagen was associated with the fibrils but essentially was restricted to intersections of the fibrils. These observations suggested that type IX collagen contributes to the stabilization of the network of thin fibers of the extracellular matrix of cartilage by interactions of its triple helical domains with several fibrils at or close to their intersections.

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