In Drosophila melanogaster, the role of the metallodisintegrin, Kuzbanian (kuz), is thought to involve activation of the Drosophila Notch receptor that plays a role in cell-fate determination during neurogenesis and myoblast differentiation. To understand the possible function(s) of a-disintegrin and metalloproteinase (ADAM10), the mammalian ortholog of kuz, in the skeleton, we studied its expression as well as the messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding one candidate substrate, the mammalian Notch2 receptor in bone, bone cells, and cartilage. In sections of neonatal rat tibiae, ADAM10 is expressed in specific regions of articular cartilage and metaphyseal bone. Expression of ADAM10 in articular cartilage occurs predominantly in superficial chondrocytes and becomes more sporadic with increasing distance from the articular surface. In bone, ADAM10 is expressed by periosteal cells, osteoblasts, and osteocytes at locations of active bone formation. Osteoclasts did not express ADAM10. Notch2 mRNA expression was not detectable in superficial chondrocytes. However it colocalized at all sites of ADAM10 expression in bone cells. In vitro, both primary human osteoblasts and osteoblast cell lines expressed a single 4.5 kb and 7.5 kb transcript of ADAM10 and the Notch2 receptor homolog, respectively. Subcellular localization of the ADAM10 protein in MG-63 cells was determined using immunofluorescent techniques. These observations showed clearly that the ADAM10 protein was expressed in the trans-Golgi network and on the plasma membrane. Western blot analysis of fractionated cells showed that, in the plasma membrane fraction, the previously characterized 58 kDa and 56 kDa isoforms were present, whereas, in the trans-Golgi network, the ADAM10 protein was present in several additional bands, possibly indicative of further interdomain processing of the ADAM10 protein. The metallodisintegrins (ADAMs) have several putative functions, including modulation of cell adhesion, membrane-associated proteolysis, and cell-cell signaling. These observations suggest that, in bone but not cartilage, ADAM10 has catalytic activity within the transGolgi network and may play a role in the activation of Notch receptor homologs. This implicates ADAM10 in cell-fate determination of osteoblast progenitor cells, possibly during skeletal development and normal bone remodeling. Plasma-membrane-associated ADAM10 may confer alternative functions.