We describe the cloning of the mouse glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) gene and its expression during embryogenesis. GDNF is a distant member of the superfamily of TGF-β related genes that was originally identified on the basis of its striking neurotrophic activity. GDNF is expressed in a highly dynamic pattern in the anterior neuroectoderm during early stages of neurogenesis between E7.5 and E10.5. Beginning at E10.5 GDNF is also expressed in several organs that develop through inductive epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. In those organs, GDNF expression is strictly confined to mesenchymal tissues and is not found in epithelia. Our results suggest multiple roles for GDNF during early stages of neuronal development and in epithelial-mesenchymal interactions.