Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the synthesis of catecholamines and, thus, critical in determining the catecholaminergic phenotype. In this study, we have examined the expression of TH mRNA by in situ hybridization in the embryonic mouse forebrain and midbrain and have mapped its localization according to the neuromeric pattern. We find that early in embryonic development, 10 to 12 days post coitum (dpc), TH mRNA is expressed in ample continuous regions of the neuroepithelium, extending across several neuromeres. However, from 12.5 dpc onward, the expression becomes restricted to discrete regions, which correspond to the dopaminergic nuclei (A8 to A15). In addition to these nuclei previously described, TH mRNA is also observed in regions that do not express this enzyme according to immunohistochemical studies. This difference in relation to protein expression pattern is consequent with the known posttranscriptional regulation of TH expression. The most representative example of a novel positive region is the conspicuous mRNA expression in both medial and lateral ganglionic eminences. This result agrees with reports describing the capacity of striatal stem cells (that is, located at the lateral ganglionic eminence) to become dopaminergic in vitro. Other regions include the isthmic mantle layer and the early floor plate of the midbrain-caudal forebrain. On the whole, the expression map we have obtained opens new perspectives for evolutionary/comparative studies, as well as for therapeutic approaches looking for potentially dopaminergic cells. Developmental Dynamics 234:709-717, 2005. (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.