Expression of EMILIN-1, the first member of a newly discovered family of extracellular matrix genes, has been investigated during mouse development. EMILIN-1 mRNA is detectable in morula and blastocyst by RT-PCR. First expression of the gene is found by in situ hybridization in ectoplacental cone in embryos of 6.5 days and in extraembryonic visceral endoderm at 7.5 days. The allantois is also labeled. Staining of ectoplacental cone-derived secondary trophoblast giant cells and spongiotrophoblast is strong up to 11.5 days and then declines. In the embryo, high levels of mRNA are initially expressed in blood vessels, perineural mesenchyme and somites at 8.5 days. Later on, intense labeling is identified in the mesenchymal component of organs anlage (i.e. lung and liver) and different mesenchymal condensations (i.e. limb bud and branchial arches). At late gestation staining is widely distributed in interstitial connective tissue and smooth muscle cell-rich tissues. The data suggest that EMILIN-1 may have a function in placenta formation and initial organogenesis and a later role in interstitial connective tissue.