Members of the nuclear hormone receptor gene family of transcription factors have been shown to be expressed in characteristic patterns during mouse organogenesis and postnatal development. Using an RT-PCR based screening assay, we have identified nuclear receptors expressed in embryonal carcinoma stem cells. One of the cDNAs characterized, mERR-2, was found to be expressed exclusively during a narrow developmental window in trophoblast progenitor cells between days 6.5 and 7.5 post coitum (p.c.). From 8.5 days p.c. and onwards, the mERR-2 gene activity evaded detection as analysed by in situ hybridization. We also show that the mERR-2 gene product and the estrogen receptor share a common target DNA-sequence recognition specificity unique among members of the gene family. Furthermore, efficient homodimerization and DNA-binding of the orphan receptor mERR-2 was found to be dependent on interaction with the heat shock protein 90, a molecular chaperone hitherto recognized to interact only with the steroid hormone receptor subgroup of nuclear receptors. Based on our results we suggest that the mouse orphan receptor mERR-2 has the potential to regulate overlapping gene networks with the estrogen receptor and may participate in signal transduction pathways during a short developmental period coinciding with the formation of the chorion.