Previous immunolocalisation studies of dyschondroplasia have indicated that there is a reduction in the number of growth plate chondrocytes containing the protein transforming growth factor beta 3 (TGF-beta 3). The reduction in TGF-beta 3 in dyschondroplasia is likely to be a direct result of a reduction in the expression of the TGF-beta 3 gene. mRNA was extracted from small (0.09 g) samples of growth cartilage from the proximal tibiotarsus of three-week-old broiler chicks. The cartilage samples contained cells from all three zones of the growth plate (proliferative, transitional and upper hypertrophic) and were collected from normal and dyschondroplastic growth plates. The dyschondroplastic growth plates were identified by an accumulation of transitional chondrocytes which were considered to be a result of a failure to differentiate to the hypertrophic phenotype. A semi-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to estimate the quantity of mRNA specific for glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and for each of the three isoforms of TGF beta (TGF-beta 1, TGF-beta 2 and TGF-beta 3) in each of the cartilage samples. The levels of expression of mRNA for GAPDH, TGF-beta 1 and TGF-beta 2 were similar in the two groups, but the expression of TGF-beta 3 mRNA was significantly reduced in the samples from the dyschondroplastic growth plates. The reduction in TGF-beta 3 levels is thought to be associated with the failure of chondrocyte hypertrophy in dyschondroplasia, and provides in vivo evidence that TGF-beta 3 is part of the cascade of events associated with the differentiation of chondrocytes during endochondral ossification in the chick.