This review describes some recent advances in the molecular-genetic analysis of mouse development. Reversed genetics and gene assignment have been used to isolate genes affected in developmental mutations. The establishment of a high-density molecular-genetic map promises to facilitate cloning of additional genes with developmental functions. Based on molecular, biochemical or other biological criteria many mouse genes that code for transcriptional regulators, growth-factor-like molecules and their receptors have been isolated. The role of these genes during development can be analysed in vivo after producing targeted mutations. Mutations can be generated by homologous recombination in the genome of embryonic stem cells and can then be introduced into the mouse germ line by means of germ-line chimaeras. Additional approaches employing stem cells to identify and mutate putative developmental genes are coming into use.