Lack of type XV collagen in mice results in mild skeletal myopathy and increases vulnerability to exercise-induced skeletal muscle and cardiac injury [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98 (2001), 1194]. The expression of type XV collagen was studied during murine fetal development from 10.5 to 18.5 dpc using immunofluorescence. The first sign of type expression was seen in the capillaries of many tissues at 10.5 dpc, some of them showing developmental transitions in the expression. Interestingly, capillaries forming the blood-brain barrier and those of the sinusoidal type were essentially lacking in this collagen. Early expression was also detected in the skeletal muscle and peripheral nerves, while expression in the heart, kidney and lung appeared to be developmentally regulated. In addition, distinct staining was found in the perichondrium of the cartilage. Collectively, the dynamics of its expression during development, its localization in the basement membrane--fibrillar matrix interface and the consequences of its absence in mice suggest a structural role in providing stability at least in skeletal muscle and capillaries. The early prominent expression of type XV collagen in newly forming blood vessels could also indicate a possible role in angiogenic processes.