Growth plate chondrocytes progress through a proliferative phase before acquiring a terminally-differentiated phenotype. In this study we used Percoll density gradients to separate chick growth plate chondrocytes into populations of different maturational phenotype. By applying agarose gel differential display to these populations we cloned a cDNA encoding a novel 268 amino acid protein (3X11A). 3X11A contains two peptide motifs that are conserved in a recently identified superfamily of phosphotransferases. It is likely that 3X11A is a phosphatase, but its substrate specificity remains uncertain. 3X11A expression is upregulated 5-fold during chondrocyte terminal differentiation and its expression is approximately 100-fold higher in hypertrophic chondrocytes than in non-chondrogenic tissues. This suggests that 3X11A participates in a biochemical pathway that is particularly active in differentiating chondrocytes.