Expression of 4C9, a Lex[Gal beta 1----4(Fuc alpha 1----3)GlcNAc] antigen, during mouse embryogenesis was studied by immunohistochemical methods. Distribution of 4C9 was similar to, but not identical with that of SSEA-1 (stage-specific embryonic antigen-1). Notably, 4C9 was detected in some of the inner cell mass cells of late blastocysts, ectoderm cells migrating from the primitive streak to the mesoderm space and primordial germ cells just formed from the migrating cells. Thus, 4C9 was considered to be continuously expressed in the cell lineage starting at the totipotent 8 cell stage and leading to primordial germ cells. While 4C9 gradually decreased from the surface of primordial germ cells after they have settled in the gonad, the antigen remained in cytoplasmic granules for some period in a sex determined manner. In male gonads, cytoplasmic granules positive for 4C9 tended to be polarized to one side of cytoplasm. The 4C9 reactive material completely disappeared from male germ cells by day 16 of gestation. In female gonads, granules scattered throughout the cytoplasm and cell surface were positive for 4C9. On day 16 of gestation the cell surface antigenicity was lost, but some cytoplasmic antigenicity still remained. As above, 4C9 is a reliable marker to study the origin, migration and differentiation of primordial germ cells, and to distinguish male and female germ cells. By immunoelectron microscopy, 4C9 was detected at the plasma membrane, the Golgi apparatus, and dense-cored vesicles in primordial germ cells on 10-11 days of gestation.