The expression of a recently identified collagen, alpha 1 (XVI), in adult mouse tissue and developing mouse embryo was examined by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. A polyclonal antiserum was raised against a recombinant fusion protein, which contained a segment of 161 amino acids in the N-terminal noncollagenous domain of the human alpha 1 (XVI) collagen. Immunoprecipitation of metabolically labelled human or mouse fibroblast cell lysates with this antibody revealed a major, bacterial collagenase sensitive polypeptide of approximately 210 kDa. The size agrees with the prediction from the full-length cDNA. Immunofluorescence examination of adult mouse tissues using the affinity purified antibody revealed a rather broad distribution of the protein. The heart, kidney, intestine, ovary, testis, eye, arterial walls and smooth muscles all exhibited significant levels of expression, while the skeletal muscle, lung and brain showed very restricted and low signals. During development, no significant expression of the mRNA or protein was observed in embryo of day 8 of gestation, but strong signals was detected in placental trophoblasts. Expression in embryos was detectable first after day 11 of gestation with weak positive signals appearing in the heart. In later stages of development, stronger RNA hybridizations were observed in a variety of tissues, particularly in atrial and ventricular walls of the developing heart, spinal root neural fibers and skin. These data demonstrate that type XVI collagen represents another collagenous component widely distributed in the extracellular matrix and may contribute to the structural integrity of various tissues.