The preimplantation development of the mammalian embryo encompasses a series of critical events: the transition from oocyte to embryo, the first cell divisions, the establishment of cellular contacts, the first lineage differentiation-all the first subtle steps toward a future body plan. Here, we use microarrays to explore gene activity during preimplantation development. We reveal robust and dynamic patterns of stage-specific gene activity that fall into two major phases, one up to the 2-cell stage (oocyte-to-embryo transition) and one after the 4-cell stage (cellular differentiation). The mouse oocyte and early embryo express components of multiple signaling pathways including those downstream of Wnt, BMP, and Notch, indicating that conserved regulators of cell fate and pattern formation are likely to function at the earliest embryonic stages. Overall, these data provide a detailed temporal profile of gene expression that reveals the richness of signaling processes in early mammalian development.