The Fos-related AP1 transcription factor Fra2 (encoded by Fosl2) is expressed in various epithelial cells as well as in cartilaginous structures. We studied the role of Fra2 in cartilage development. The absence of Fra2 in embryos and newborns leads to reduced zones of hypertrophic chondrocytes and impaired matrix deposition in femoral and tibial growth plates, probably owing to impaired differentiation into hypertrophic chondrocytes. In addition, hypertrophic differentiation and ossification of primordial arches of the developing vertebrae are delayed in Fra2-deficient embryos. Primary Fosl2-/- chondrocytes exhibit decreased hypertrophic differentiation and remain in a proliferative state longer than wild-type cells. As pups lacking Fra2 die shortly after birth, we generated mice carrying 'floxed' Fosl2 alleles and crossed them to coll2a1-Cre mice, allowing investigation of postnatal cartilage development. The coll2a1-Cre, Fosl2f/f mice die between 10 and 25 days after birth, are growth retarded and display smaller growth plates similar to Fosl2-/- embryos. In addition, these mice suffer from a kyphosis-like phenotype, an abnormal bending of the spine. Hence, Fra2 is a novel transcription factor important for skeletogenesis by affecting chondrocyte differentiation.