Matrix gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla)-containing protein (MGP) was found to be present in articular cartilage by Western-blot analysis of guanidinium chloride extracts of human and bovine cartilage and was further localized by immunohistochemical studies on human and monkey specimens. In newborn articular cartilage MGP was present diffusely throughout the matrix, whereas in growth-plate cartilage it was seen mainly in late hypertrophic and calcifying-zone chondrocytes. In adult articular cartilage MGP was present primarily in chondrocytes and the pericellular matrix. Immunoelectron microscopy studies revealed an association between MGP and vesicular structures with an appearance consistent with matrix vesicles. MGP may be an important regulator of cartilage calcification because of its localization in cartilage and the known affinity of Gla-containing proteins for Ca2+ and hydroxyapatite.