The galectins are a family of low molecular weight, calcium-independent mammalian carbohydrate binding proteins that exhibit specificity for beta-galactoside derivatives. We have examined the expression pattern of galectin-3 in the developing mouse embryo by in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry. In the embryo proper, galectin-3 message and protein are first detected in notochord, starting from 8.5 days post coitum (dpc), and persist until this structure disappears. Galectin-3 is later found in cartilage primordia and in developing skin from 13.5 dpc. This very restricted and dynamic pattern suggests that galectin-3 may participate in the establishment and/or maintenance of notochord as well as the formation of cartilage and differentiation of skin. Finally, we find that galectin-3, which is identical to the macrophage marker Mac-2, is also expressed in embryonic macrophages.