BACKGROUND In embryonic kidneys, mesenchymal cells convert into epithelium in response to an induction by the tip of the ureter bud. Metanephric mesenchyme can also be induced to convert into epithelium in vitro. It is a model system to identify genes that could be important for epithelial development. METHODS By differential screening of a cDNA library made from mesenchymes induced in transfilter cultures by embryonic spinal cord for 24 hours, we selected cDNA clones representing genes that were preferentially expressed in 24-hour-induced mesenchyme and not in uninduced mesenchyme. The sequence of one clone was determined and used to obtain the sequence of a complete open reading frame. By Northern blotting and in situ hybridization, the expression of the mRNA in embryonic kidneys was determined. RESULTS We report the sequence and expression pattern of a marker for the 24-hour-induced state, mouse nuclear pore membrane glycoprotein 210 (mPOM210). The deduced 1886 amino acid sequence shows a 95% identity to the sequence of rat gp210. Northern blotting revealed a single 7.5 kb mRNA in 24-hour-induced mesenchyme, whereas message levels were fourfold to fivefold lower in uninduced mesenchyme. In situ hybridization of in vivo development confirmed the preferential expression of mPOM210 in epithelial cells. In the kidney, expression was seen in both the epithelium derived from the ureteric tree and the mesenchyme-derived epithelium. In other tissues of 13-day-old embryos, expression was also confined to the epithelium. In nervous tissues, the olfactory epithelium and walls of the lateral ventricle were the most prominently stained. Weak expression was seen in the heart. CONCLUSIONS mPOM210 mRNA is an early marker for developing epithelial cells. Furthermore, our results suggest that nuclear pore membrane proteins could be more cell-type specific than previously anticipated.