NKx homeodomain proteins are members of a growing family of vertebrate transcription factors with strong homology to the NK genes in Drosophila. Here, we describe the cloning of cNKx-2.3 and cNKx-2.5 cDNAs and their expression during chick development. Both genes are expressed in the developing heart with distinct but overlapping spatio-temporal patterns. While cNKx-2.5 is activated in early precardiac mesoderm and continues to be uniformly expressed throughout the mature heart, expression of NKx-2.3 starts later in differentiated myocardial cells with regional differences compared to NKx-2.5. Additionally, both genes are expressed in adjacent domains of the developing mid- and hindgut mesoderm as well as in branchial arches. The highly conserved structure of cNKx-2.5 and its similar expression to mouse and Xenopus NKx-2.5 genes and to the Drosophila gene tinman argue that it constitutes the chick homologue of these genes. Different temporal and spatial activity of cNKx-2.3 in heart and gut as well as in a regionally restricted expression domain in the neural tube suggest that cNKx-2.3 is a member of the NK-2 gene family which may be involved in specifying mesodermally and ectodermally derived cell types in the embryo.