Chemokines are key regulators of migration in lymphoid tissues. In the thymus, maturing thymocytes move from the outer capsule to the inner medulla and thereby interact with different types of stromal cells that control their maturation and selection. In the process of searching for molecules specifically expressed at different stages of mouse thymic differentiation, we have characterized the cDNA coding for the thymus-expressed chemokine (TECK) and its receptor CCR9. The TECK receptor gene was isolated and shown to be localized on the mouse chromosome 9F1-F4. Thymic dendritic cells have been initially thought to be a prevalent source of TECK. In contrast, our results indicate that thymic epithelial cells constitute the predominant source of TECK. Consistent with the latter distribution, the TECK receptor is highly expressed by double-positive thymocytes, and TECK can chemoattract both double-positive and single-positive thymocytes. The TECK transcript is also abundantly expressed in the epithelial cells lining the small intestine. In conclusion, the interplay of TECK and its receptor CCR9 is likely to have a significant role in the recruitment of developing thymocytes to discrete compartments of the thymus.