Ultrastructural studies and lineage analyses of gastrulating mouse embryos have revealed that different morphogenetic tissue movements are involved in the formation of the three definitive germ layers. Definitive ectoderm is formed by epibolic expansion of the pre-existing progenitor population in the embryonic ectoderm. Formation of the mesoderm and the endoderm is initiated by cellular ingression at the primitive streak. The mesodermal layer is established by cell migration and cell sheet spreading, but the endoderm is formed by replacing the original primitive endodermal population. To this date, genes that are expressed during mouse gastrulation mostly encode cell surface adhesion or signalling molecules, growth factors and their receptors, and putative transcriptional factors. Their precise role during gastrulation remains to be investigated.