To examine the expression of the gene which causes Huntington's disease (HD), IT15, during development, in situ hybridization of radiolabeled riboprobes was performed in human fetal (gestational ages 20-23 weeks) and adult brain. Optical densities of autoradiographs were determined in various brain regions and compared to cell density in those regions. IT15 expression was found in all regions of the fetal and adult brain, and there was a high degree of correlation of autoradiographic signal with cell number in all regions but germinal matrix in fetal brain and white matter in adult brain. These two regions are notable for their significant proportion of glial cells, and suggest that IT15 expression is predominantly neuronal. There was no preponderance of IT15 expression in striatal compartments in fetal brain as demonstrated by acetylcholinesterase activity, nor was there differential expression of IT15 in brain regions known to be particularly affected in HD. IT15 gene expression is present by 20 weeks gestation in human brain, and at that stage of development exhibits a pattern of distribution which is similar to adult brain. If a developmentally-regulated role for IT15 exists in the pathogenesis of HD, it must occur prior to 20 weeks gestation.