In order to isolate genes involved in development of the mammalian telencephalon we employed an efficient cDNA library procedure. By subtracting an adult mouse telencephalic cDNA library from an embryonic day 15 (E15) mouse telencephalic cDNA library we generated two subtracted libraries (ES1 and ES2). We estimate that ES1 contains between 200 and 600 different cDNA clones, which approximates the number of genes that are preferentially expressed in the E15 telencephalon, compared to the adult telencephalon. Northern analysis of 20 different cDNA clones shows that 14 of these are expressed at least 5-fold more in the E15 telencephalon than the adult telencephalon. Limited sequencing of the 14 differentially expressed clones reveals that 10 have no significant identity to sequences in GenBank and EMBL databases, whereas the other 4 have significant sequence identity to vimentin, histone 3.3, topoisomerase I and the B2 repeat element. In situ hybridization using one of the differentially expressed cDNAs, TES-1, demonstrates that it is transiently expressed in the anlage of the basal ganglia. In situ hybridization with another differentially expressed cDNA clone, TES-4, shows that it is specifically expressed in differentiating cells of the neural axis with a distinctive rostral-caudal temporal pattern. These findings, and the methods that we have developed, provide a framework for future investigations of the genetic control of telencephalon development.