The bifunctional protein DCoH/PCD is both a cytoplasmatic enzyme (PCD) involved in the tetrahydrobiopterin regeneration and a transcription coactivator (DCoH). Originally detected in liver cell nuclei, it forms a 2:2 heterotetrameric complex with the nuclear transcription factors HNF1alpha and the variant form HNF1beta and enhances their transcriptional potential. To address the role of DCoH in tissue specific and developmental gene regulation we analyzed its spatial and temporal expression pattern in the rat. DCoH might have a function in tissue specific gene expression mediated by HNF1 in the adults and in the developing embryo as it is found in the kidney and the liver, organs known to contain HNF1. In addition DCoH is a maternal factor in the rat egg lacking HNF1 transcription factors. The maternal protein enters the cell nuclei at the 8-cell stage suggesting a role in early embryonic gene regulation and excluding a cytoplasmatic enzymatic function. Evidence for a HNF1 independent function of DCoH is also given by the fact that DCoH is present in the eyes (pigmented epithelium) and the brain (ependym cells) of the rat embryos, cell types lacking HNF1 proteins. The tightly regulated expression pattern of DCoH in distinct cell types originating from endo- meso- and ectoderm is conserved between the rat and the frog indicating a fundamental role for DCoH in early gene regulation among the vertebrates.