The distribution of the extracellular matrix glycoprotein tenascin was studied by immunofluorescence in the developmental history of the mouse mammary gland from embryogenesis to carcinogenesis. Tenascin appeared only in the mesenchyme immediately surrounding the epithelia just starting morphogenesis, that is, in embryonic mammary glands from 13th to 16th day of gestation, in mammary endbuds which are a characteristic structure starting development during maturation of the mammary gland, and in the stroma of malignant mammary tumors. However, tenascin was absent in the elongating ducts of embryonic, adult, proliferating, and involuting mammary glands and preneoplastic hyperplastic alveolar nodules. The transplantation of embryonic submandibular mesenchyme into adult mammary glands induces the development of duct-alveolus nodules, which morphologically resemble developing endbuds. Tenascin reappeared around those nodules during the initial stages of their development. Tenascin expression could be induced experimentally in several ways. First, tenascin was detected at the site where the first mammary tumor cells GMT-L metastasized. Second, tenascin was detected in the connective tissue in the tumors derived from the injected C3H mammary tumor cell line CMT315 into Balb/c nude mouse. Cross-strain marker anti-CSA antiserum clearly showed that the tenascin-positive fibroblasts were of Balb/c origin. Third, when embryonic mammary epithelium was explanted on to embryonic mammary fat pad cultures, the mesenchymal cells condensed immediately surrounding the epithelium. Tenascin was detected in these condensed cells. From these three observations we conclude that both embryonic and neoplastic epithelium induced tenascin synthesis in their surrounding mesenchyme.