The mes-metencephalic boundary (isthmus) has been suggested to act as an organizer in the development of the optic tectum. Pax-5 was cloned as a candidate for regulator of the organizing center. Isthmus-specific expression of Pax-5 and analogy with the genetic cascade in Drosophila suggest that Pax-5 may be at a higher hierarchical position in the gene regulation cascade of tectum development. To examine this possibility, a gain-of-function experiment on Pax-5 was carried out. In ovo electroporation on E2 chick brain with the eucaryotic expression vector that encodes chick Pax-5 cDNA was used. Not only was a considerable amount of Pax-5 expressed ectopically in the transfected brain, but irregular bulging of the neuroepithelium was induced in the diencephalon and mesencephalon. At Pax-5 misexpressing sites, uptake of BrdU was increased. Histological examination of E7 transfected brain revealed that Pax-5 caused transdifferentiation of diencephalon into the tectum-like structure. In the bulges of the E7 mesencephalon, differentiation of laminar structure was repressed when compared to the normal side. In transfected embryos, En-2, Wnt-1 and Fgf8 were up-regulated ectopically, and Otx2 was down-regulated in the diencephalon to mesencephalon. Moreover, Ephrin-A2, which is expressed specifically in the tectum with a gradient highest at the caudal end, is suggested to be involved in pathfinding of the retinal fibers, and was induced in the bulges. When the mouse Fgf8 expression vector was electroporated, Pax-5 and chick Fgf8 were also induced ectopically. These results suggest that Pax-5, together with Fgf8, hold a higher position in the genetic hierarchy of the isthmus organizing center and regulate its activity.