The role of various gene loci was investigated in a family in which familial osteoarthritis (FOA), with onset at an early age, is transmitted as an autosomal dominant mendelian trait. The absence of clinical and radiographic signs of dysplasia and calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPDD) indicates that the basic disease process in this family is osteoarthritis (OA). Genetic linkage analysis of 14 candidate genes resulted in the exclusion of 10 important genes (COL2A1, COL9A1, COL9A2, COL11A1, COL11A2, COMP, the CPDD region, CRTL-1, CRTM, and MMP3). Other relevant genes were not informative in this family. The candidate loci previously identified in FOA and heritable skeletal disorders associated with OA are clearly not involved in the development of the primary FOA phenotype in the family investigated, indicating genetic heterogeneity.