Triple helix formation is a prerequisite for the passage of type I procollagen from the endoplasmic reticulum and secretion from the cell to form extracellular fibrils that will support mineral deposition in bone. Analysis of cDNA from 11 unrelated individuals with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) revealed the presence of 11 novel, short in-frame deletions or duplications of three, nine, or 18 nucleotides in the helical coding regions of the COL1A1 and COL1A2 collagen genes. Triple helix formation was impaired, type I collagen alpha chains were post-translationally overmodified, and extracellular secretion was markedly reduced. With one exception, the obligate Gly-Xaa-Yaa repeat pattern of amino acids in the helical domains was not altered, but the Xaa- and Yaa position residues were out of register relative to the amino acid sequences of adjacent chains in the triple helix. Thus, the identity of these amino acids, in addition to third position glycines, is important for normal helix formation. These findings expand the known repertoire of uncommon in-frame deletions and duplications in OI, and provide insight into normal collagen biosynthesis and collagen triple helix formation.