The present in situ hybridisation study describes expression of TGF-beta 1, TGF-beta 2, TGF-beta 3, and TGF-beta type II receptor mRNA during follicular development, and the temporal pattern and abundance of TGF-beta 2 transcripts in early pre-implantation embryos. TGF-beta 1 hybridisation signals were most prominent in the outer granulosa cell layers of the post-antral follicles and in the corpus luteum, whereas strong expression of TGF-beta type II receptor mRNA was confined to thecal cells. Weak TGF-beta 3 mRNA expression was observed in all major cell types of pre- and post-antral follicles. Most notably, the very strong TGF-beta 2 hybridisation signals which were detected in developing oocytes declined rapidly following fertilization. Although still abundant in two-cell embryos, TGF-beta 2 hybridisation signals were barely detectable in four- and eight-cell embryos. These findings, and the presence of specific sequence motifs in the 3' untranslated region of TGF-beta 2 mRNAs, suggest that TGF-beta 2 transcripts are stored as maternal messages.