Migration of the mesoderm cells in the primitive-streak-stage mouse embryo was directly studied by cinemicrography using whole embryo culture and Nomarski differential interference contrast optics. Relative transparency and small size of the early mouse embryos enabled direct observation of the individual cells and their cell processes. Seven-day-old mouse embryos were isolated and cultured in a small chamber in a medium consisting of 50% rat serum and 50% Dulbecco's modified minimum essential medium. The mesoderm cells move away from the primitive streak in both anterior and antimesometrial (distal) directions at a mean velocity of 46 micron h-1. They extend cell processes and constantly change cell shape. They do not translocate extensively as isolated single cells, but usually maintain attachment to other mesoderm cells. They show frequent cell division preceded by rounding up of the cell bodies, and accompanied by vigorous blebbing before and after cytokinesis. This study shows that it is possible to examine the motility of embryonic cells inside the mammalian embryo by direct observation if the embryo is small and transparent enough for the use of the Nomarski optics.