cDNA microarray technology has been increasingly used to monitor global gene expression patterns in various tissues and cell types. However, applications to mammalian development have been hampered by the lack of appropriate cDNA collections, particularly for early developmental stages. To overcome this problem, a PCR-based cDNA library construction method was used to derive 52,374 expressed sequence tags from pre- and peri-implantation embryos, embryonic day (E) 12.5 female gonad/mesonephros, and newborn ovary. From these cDNA collections, a microarray representing 15,264 unique genes (78% novel and 22% known) was assembled. In initial applications, the divergence of placental and embryonic gene expression profiles was assessed. At stage E12.5 of development, based on triplicate experiments, 720 genes (6.5%) displayed statistically significant differences in expression between placenta and embryo. Among 289 more highly expressed in placenta, 61 placenta-specific genes encoded, for example, a novel prolactin-like protein. The number of genes highly expressed (and frequently specific) for placenta has thereby been increased 5-fold over the total previously reported, illustrating the potential of the microarrays for tissue-specific gene discovery and analysis of mammalian developmental programs.