Abstract A single base change resulting in the substitution of Cys for Arg at position 519 of the type II collagen triple helix is a predisposing factor in the pathogenesis of a precocious-onset form of familial osteoarthritis associated with a mild chondrodysplasia. Cartilage obtained at the time of total knee replacement in a patient with the Arg-Cys 519 mutation was used to investigate the expression of Col2A1 alleles. Using PCR assisted amplification of mRNA with specific amplification of a region of Col2A1 message encompassing exons 31-34, followed by single strand conformation polymorphism and sequence analyses, we have found transcription products of both mutant and normal type II collagen alleles. Further analysis of the sequence of these exons provides evidence that the Arg-Cys 519 mutation arose independently in at least two of the three known affected families. The presence of both mutant and normal alleles of Col2A1 in cDNA derived from cartilage obtained from this patient suggests that Cys 519-containing type II collagen may continue to be produced even in advanced stages of osteoarthritis.