The optic tectum differentiates from the alar plate of the mesencephalon. Here, the molecular mechanisms for differentiation of the tectum are reviewed. Mis-expression of Pax2, Pax5 or En can change the fate of the presumptive diencephalon to become the tectum. En, Fgf8, Pax2 and Pax5, exist in a positive feedback loop for their expression so that mis-expression of any of these genes acts on the feedback loop resulting in induction of the optic tectum in the diencephalon. Otx2 and Gbx2 can repress the expression of each other and contribute to the formation of the posterior border of the tectum. Mis-expression of Otx2 in the metencephalon changed the fate of its alar plate to the tectum. The anterior border of the tectum might be determined as a result of repressive interaction of Pax6 with En1 and Pax2. Along the dorsoventral axis of the mesencephalon, Shh contributes to the ventralization of the tissue, that is, the area affected by Shh differentiates into the tegmentum. It is proposed that the brain vesicle that expresses Otx2, Pax2 and En1 might differentiate into the tectum.