Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is caused by the loss of expression of imprinted genes in chromosome 15q11-q13. Affected individuals exhibit neonatal hypotonia, developmental delay and childhood-onset obesity. Necdin, a protein implicated in the terminal differentiation of neurons, is the only PWS candidate gene to reduce viability when disrupted in a mouse model. In this study, we have characterized MAGEL2 (also known as NDNL1), a gene with 51% amino acid sequence similarity to necdin and located 41 kb distal to NDN in the PWS deletion region. MAGEL2 is expressed predominantly in brain, the primary tissue affected in PWS and in several fetal tissues as shown by northern blot analysis. MAGEL2 is imprinted with monoallelic expression in control brain, and paternal-only expression in the central nervous system as demonstrated by its lack of expression in brain from a PWS-affected individual. The orthologous mouse gene (Magel2) is located within 150 kb of NDN:, is imprinted with paternal-only expression and is expressed predominantly in late developmental stages and adult brain as shown by northern blotting, RT-PCR and whole-mount RNA in situ hybridization. Magel2 distribution partially overlaps that of NDN:, with strong expression being detected in the central nervous system in mid-gestation mouse embryos by in situ hybridization. We hypothesize that, although loss of necdin expression may be important in the neonatal presentation of PWS, loss of MAGEL2 may be critical to abnormalities in brain development and dysmorphic features in individuals with PWS.