We have shown by molecular hybridisation that the mRNAs for albumin, transferrin, apolipoprotein-A1, and alpha 1-antitrypsin are expressed at high levels in mouse visceral yolk sac. In contrast, the mRNAs for contrapsin (a plasma protease inhibitor) and the major urinary proteins (MUPs) are not detected in the visceral yolk sac at any stage of embryonic development. Contrapsin and MUP mRNAs both appear late in liver development. These differences in expression suggest that the visceral yolk sac is more similar to the foetal than adult mouse liver in its pattern of gene expression. However, the developmental time course of expression of these mRNAs is different between the foetal liver and the yolk sac. Evidence is also presented that the visceral yolk sac synthesises and secretes other apolipoproteins in addition to apolipoprotein-A1. These results suggest that the visceral yolk sac and foetal liver, two tissues with different embryological lineages, perform similar functions but are independently programmed for expression of the same set of serum protein genes.