The development of mesencephalic catecholaminergic neurons in the embryonic and fetal mouse was analysed in tissues fixed with 5% acrolein using polyclonal rabbit antibodies against tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the first enzyme in catecholamine synthesis. The first TH positive cells were identified as early as day 8.5-9 of gestation and some expressed TH while apparently still migrating from the proliferative layer. The number of catecholamine cells increased dramatically by embryonic day 9.5-10; at gestation days 10.5-11 numerous TH positive cells bearing many neurites were localized in the ventral part of the mesencephalon but they were not yet separated into two different groups (A9 and A10). After 13 days of gestation two separate catecholaminergic groups could be visualized, although many TH positive cells with long neurites (putative dopaminergic neurons) could still be seen at the edges of the ventricle, and appeared to be moving towards the ventral mesencephalon. On the basis of these results the possibility that catecholamine cells that are produced early during the development of the midbrain may have neurotrophic and/or morphogenetic roles is discussed.