Calbindin-D28k appears in the metanephric kidney during embryogenesis. We studied the temporal appearance and spatial distribution of calbindin-D28k mRNA in the developing kidneys of 12-day fetal through 21-day postnatal mice by in situ hybridization. 35S-UTP-labeled antisense (cRNA) probe to calbindin-D28k mRNA hybridized to the ureteric buds of 12-day embryos, whereas adjacent metanephrogenic tissue was unlabeled. By embryonic day 13, Y-shaped bodies of "advancing" ureteric buds were labeled intensely. In 16-day embryos, ampullae of ureteric buds were located immediately beneath the renal capsule and labeled strongly, in contrast to metanephric tubules and S-shaped bodies. The former were unlabeled and the latter were labeled only at points of contact with the ampullae. Subsequently, the ampullae of the metanephric ureteric buds hybridized with the cRNA probe, and from the 18th embryonic to the 21st postnatal day, this labeling was intense. The cRNA probe did not hybridize with the renal vesicles, proximal tubules, or tubular segments of Henle's loop derived from nephrogenic blastema, but it did label distal nephron segments. By the 21st postnatal day, collecting ducts and ureter no longer were labeled. In conclusion, calbindin-D28k mRNA is present in the developing mouse kidney, and its distribution during nephrogenesis is identical to that of calbindin-D28k per se. Collectively, these findings show that the calbindin-D28k gene is transcribed and its message is translated by the cells of the ureteric bud during the initial stage of renal morphogenesis.