Human chorionic gonadotrophin beta (HCG-beta) is a trophoblast marker. Its expression is normally limited to syncytiotrophoblast cells of chorionic villi, although it is known to be secreted from the human embryo as early as 7 days post-fertilization. To examine the onset of embryonic transcriptional activity of the gene encoding this polypeptide we have performed in-situ hybridization to cellular RNAs of human tripronucleate preimplantation embryos. We see expression of HCG-beta RNA at the 6-8-cell stage, before morphological differentiation between trophectoderm and inner cell mass is apparent. We believe that this RNA is the product of de novo transcription from the embryonic genome, since transcripts are only observed in embryos of at least 2 days post-fertilization in age.