Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) type IB is a rare subset of the mildest form of OI, clinically characterized by moderate bone fragility, blue sclera, and dentinogenesis imperfecta. Cultured skin fibroblasts from two unrelated individuals (OI-197 and OI-165) with the typical features of OI type IB produced shortened alpha2(I) chains. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction of the alpha2(I)-cDNA revealed deletions in the triple helical domain of 5 exons (exons 7-11) in OI-197, and 8 exons (exons 10-17) in OI-165. This exon skipping was caused by genomic deletions in one allele of COL1A2 with the breakpoints located in introns 6 and 11 in OI-197, and introns 9 and 17 in OI-165. The secretion and deposition of the mutant collagen into the matrix was measured in vitro in cultures of skin fibroblasts and bone osteoblasts, grown in the presence of ascorbic acid to induce collagen matrix formation and maturation, as well as in collagen extracts from skin and bone. The secretion of mutant collagen was impaired and long term cultures of fibroblasts showed that the mutant collagen was not incorporated into the mature collagenous matrix produced in vitro by skin fibroblasts from both patients. Likewise, the shortened alpha2(I) chain was not demonstrable in skin extracts. In contrast, bone extracts from OI-197 showed the presence of the mutant collagen. This incorporation of the abnormal collagen into the mature matrix was also demonstrated in long term cultures of the patient's osteoblasts. The deposition of the mutant collagen by bone osteoblasts but not by skin fibroblasts demonstrates a tissue specificity in the incorporation of mutant collagen into the matrix which may explain the primary involvement of bone and not skin in these patients.