The family of dominant-negative helix-loop-helix (dnHLH) transcriptional modulators consists of four mammalian genes known to date: Id1, Id2, Id3 (Id3 was formerly designated HLH462 or HEIR1 or HLH1R21), and Id4. We have performed a detailed study of Id3 expression in mouse embryos in order to gain insight into the possible developmental control functions of this gene and to compare its expression to that of other mammalian dnHLH genes. Employing RNA in situ hybridization on sectioned mouse embryos of gestational stages E9.5-17.5 and neonatal head, we generally detected a high abundance of transcripts at early stages that gradually declined at most sites toward E15.5. Expression of Id3 in embryos was detected in brain, spinal cord, olfactory system, branchial arches, limbs, sclerotome, endocardiac cushions, the outer lining of the gut, lung, retina, the collecting system of the kidney, and in tooth anlagen. Although the abundance of mRNA decreased toward later stages in most tissues, it remained high in teeth and kidney. This expression pattern suggests that Id3 functions both in undifferentiated tissues and in organs which are in the process of differentiation. When compared to the expression of other dnHLH genes, it becomes obvious that the pattern of Id3 mainly coincides with that of Id1. This may reflect a partial redundancy in gene function. Furthermore, previous experiments suggested a mutually exclusive expression of the proto-oncogene N-myc an Id3. The results of the present study confirm these data.