We investigated the cellular mechanism of formation of subepidermal thick bundles of collagen (collagen lamella) during larval development of the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, using cDNA of α1(I) collagen as a probe. The originally bilayered larval epidermis contains basal skein cells and apical cells, and the collagen lamella is directly attached to the basement membrane. The basal skein cells above the collagen lamella and fibroblasts beneath it intensively expressed the α1(I) gene. As the skin developed, suprabasal skein cells ceased expression of the gene. Concomitantly, the fibroblasts started to outwardly migrate, penetrated into the lamella and formed connective tissue between the epidermis and the lamella. These fibroblasts intensively expressed the gene. As the connective tissue developed, the basal skein cells ceased to express the gene and were replaced by larval basal cells that did not express the gene. These dynamic changes took place first in a lateral region of the body skin and proceeded to all other regions except the tail. Isolated cultured skein cells expressed the gene and extracellularly deposited its protein as the type I collagen fibrils. Thus, it is concluded that anuran larval epidermal cells can autonomously and intrinsically synthesize type I collagen.