A multifunctional growth and differentiation factor TGF-beta is expressed at various developmental stages, and its principle role may be involvement in organogenesis. The present study was performed to evaluate the temporal and spatial expression of TGF-beta2 mRNA in developing somites of chicken embryos during their early developmental periods. TGF-betas were expressed in various tissues of the whole embryo obtained at stage 26 (5 days of incubation) as revealed by whole-mount in situ hybridization. TGF-beta2 mRNA was predominantly expressed in somites as well as the head, branchial arch, wing buds, and leg buds. TGF-beta2 mRNA first appeared in the rostral somites on E4, and its expression sites expanded to the middle range of somites at stage 26. At stages 29-31 (6-7 days), expression in the rostral somites disappeared, and it appeared in the caudal somites. TGF-beta2 expression was also analyzed in sections of the embryo by in situ hybridization. The expression sites of TGF-beta2 were clearly observed in the myotomal somite tips as well as the neural tube. RT-PCR analysis showed that TGF-beta2 expression was very low in the blastocyte stage embryo and thereafter increased linearly in the whole trunk until stage 26. These data indicate that TGF-beta2 may be a regulatory factor participating in the somitogenesis of chicken embryos.