Tropomodulin (Tmod) is a tropomyosin-binding protein involved in the structuring of actin filaments. This report describes Tmod expression in distinct patterns during embryonic development in a wider variety of adult and embryonic vertebrate tissues than previously reported. Identical Tmod cDNAs were cloned from mouse brain, skeletal muscle, heart, and hematopoeitic cells. Genomic blotting demonstrates that Tmod is encoded by a single gene, which has a 1077-bp open reading frame that is highly homologous to that of the human erythrocyte. The spatial and temporal expression of the Tmod gene was examined during mouse embryogenesis using in situ hybridization. Tmod mRNA is present by 9.5 days postcoitum (p.c.) in the developing rostral somites, coincident with expression of contractile protein genes in myotomes, suggesting that Tmod may play an important role in sarcomeric thin filament organization in skeletal muscle. While the expression of Tmod mRNA in cardiac muscle is earlier than that in skeletal muscle, its appearance in the heart also coincides with the expression of genes for thin filament proteins and correlates with initial myocardial contractions at 8.0 days p.c. Tmod mRNA is not detected in developing smooth muscle of the gut, but Tmod mRNA is expressed in hematopoeitic cells in yolk sac and developing liver. The sensory ganglia and epithelia of the inner ear express Tmod mRNA as do other sensory neurons such as those in the olfactory epithelium. Expression levels in the brain are much lower prenatally than postnatally. These findings show that Tmod expression in many cell types is developmentally regulated, suggesting that the interaction of actin filaments with this tropomyosin binding protein is an important process in tissue and cell differentiation.