Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein has been implicated as an important component of endochondral ossification because of its direct effects on chondrocytes. The importance of this protein for skeletal development and growth has been recently illustrated by the identification of mutations in cartilage oligomeric protein genes in two types of inherited chondrodysplasias and osteoarthritic phenotypes: multiple epiphyseal dysplasia and pseudoachondroplasia. In the present study, we report the presence of cartilage oligomeric protein in embryonic and adult osteoblasts. A foot from a 21-week-old human fetus, subchondral bone obtained from knee replacement surgery in an adult patient, and a limb from a 19-day-postcoital mouse embryo were analyzed with immunostaining and in situ hybridization. In the human fetal foot, cartilage oligomeric protein was localized to osteoblasts of the bone collar and at the newly formed bone at the growth plate and bone diaphyses. Immunostaining was performed on the adult subchondral bone and showed positive intracellular cellular staining for cartilage oligomeric protein of the osteoblasts lining the trabecular bone. There was no staining of the osteocytes. Immunostaining of the mouse limb showed the most intense staining for cartilage oligomeric protein in the hypertrophic chondrocytes and in the surrounding osteoblast cells of the developing bone. Cartilage oligomeric protein mRNA and protein were detected in an osteoblast cell line (MG-63), and cartilage oligomeric protein mRNA was detected from human cancellous bone RNA. These results suggest that the altered structure of cartilage oligomeric protein by the mutations seen in pseudoachondroplasia and multiple epiphyseal dysplasia may have direct effects on osteoblasts, contributing to the pathogenesis of these genetic disorders.