The cDNA cFKH-1 encodes a chicken winged helix/forkhead domain transcription factor that presents a dynamic expression pattern during chicken embryogenesis. Transcripts accumulate predominantly in early paraxial mesoderm, developing somites, and within mesenchymal precursors of skeletal structures. cFKH-1 RNA is first detected in the developing mesoderm of HH stage 6 embryos. During subsequent development cFKH-1 RNA accumulates in a dorsal domain of the anterior presomitic mesoderm and later in all cells of the epithelial somites before it becomes limited to the sclerotome when somites compartmentalise. cFKH-1 expression persists in the sclerotome, forming the vertebrae and in mesenchymal condensations in limb buds that will give rise later to the appendicular bones. In differentiated chondrocytes and definitive bone structures, however, cFKH-1 expression is down-regulated. Additional expression domains are found in mesenchyme of branchial arches and the head, in the dorsal aorta, and weakly in the endocardium. Based on its expression pattern and the structure of the forkhead DNA-binding domain cFKH-1 constitutes a chicken relative to the murine family of fkh-1/MF1 and MFH-1 factors. The embryonic expression of the cFKH-1 gene defines distinct mesodermal domains and suggests that it may regulate gene expression in mesenchymal cell lineages that will form cartilage in trunk and limb buds.