Most forms of osteogenesis imperfecta are caused by dominant mutations in either of the two genes, COL1A1 and COL1A2, that encode the pro alpha 1(I) and pro alpha 2(I) chains of type I collagen, respectively. However, a severe, autosomal recessive form of OI type III with a comparatively high frequency has been recognised in the black populations of southern Africa. We preformed linkage analyses in eight OI type III families using RFLPs associated with the COL1A1 and COL1A2 loci to determine whether mutations in the genes for type I collagen were responsible for this form of OI. Recombination between the OI phenotype and polymorphic markers at both loci was shown in three of the eight families investigated. The combined lod scores for the eight families were -10.6 for COL1A1 and -11.2 for COL1A2. Further, we examined the type I procollagen produced by skin fibroblast cultures derived from 15 affected and 12 unaffected subjects from the above eight families plus one further family. We found no evidence for defects in the synthesis, structure, secretion, or post-translational modification of the chains of type I procollagen produced by any of the family members. These results suggest that mutations within or near the type I collagen structural genes are not responsible for this form of OI.