Matrilin-3 is a recently identified matrix protein of cartilage that shows sequence homology to matrilin-1 (cartilage matrix protein or CMP). Here we identify and characterize the molecular properties of matrilin-3 from human growth cartilage by immunochemical and mass spectrometry methods. Extracts of fetal skeletal cartilage were resolved by SDS-PAGE and candidate matrilin subunits were identified by electrospray mass spectrometry of tryptic peptides. Matrilin-3 and matrilin-1 were both present in disulfide-bonded tetrameric components. Polyclonal antisera to synthetic peptides specific to each subunit confirmed the identities by Western blotting and further demonstrated the existence of several forms of tetramer. A homotetramer (matrilin-3)4 and more than one species of heterotetramer containing matrilin-3 and matrilin-1 chains were resolved. Immunohistochemistry of tissue sections confirmed that both matrilin-1 and matrilin-3 are widely codistributed throughout human skeletal growth cartilage.