The gene for murine matrilin-3, an extracellular matrix protein present in cartilage, was isolated and further characterized. The gene spans 23.4 kb and comprises 8 exons; with one exception, this reflects the modular structure of the protein. The major and a minor transcription start site were determined by RNase protection assays to positions approximately 72 nt and 87 nt upstream of the ATG codon, respectively. The promoter contains a TATA-like box 32 bp upstream of the main transcription start as well as several potential binding sites for eukaryotic transcription factors. As in all known matrilin genes, the last intron, separating the exons coding for the coiled-coil domain, does not follow the GT-AG rule and belongs to the subgroup of introns having AT-AC at the ends that are spliced by the U12-type spliceosome. The mouse matrilin-3 gene does not contain hidden exon sequences coding for the second vWFA-like domain present in all other matrilins. The intron that could possibly contain such sequences instead shows 75% repetitive sequences, indicating an evolutionary process that has led to the loss of sequences coding for vWFA2. Single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis was used to map the Matn3 gene to the proximal end of Chr 12, linked to the genes Synd1, Apob, Dntb, and Kif3c.