Recent comparative studies on expression patterns of homeobox genes in the development between ascidians and vertebrates have come to suggest a possibility that a common basic mechanism may exist in the patterning of the central nervous system (CNS). The ems/emx genes have been demonstrated to be involved in the formation and patterning of the anterior CNS in Drosophila and vertebrate embryos. In the present study, we have isolated and analyzed expression of Hremx, the ascidian homologue of ems/emx with particular attention to whether it is expressed in the larval ascidian CNS. Expression of Hremx was detected in the anterior trunk and lateral tail epidermis but not in the anterior CNS. The two expression domains of the epidermis responded in different ways upon treatment with retinoic acid: the anterior expression domain was unaltered, while the posterior expression domain extended to the anterior. The present result suggests that Hremx may have a function in anterior patterning but not in the patterning of the CNS in the ascidian embryo. We suggest the possibility that the function of ems/emx genes in the patterning of the anterior CNS in Drosophila and vertebrate embryos might have been acquired independently in the lineages to Drosophila and vertebrates.