As gene expression governs development, we attempted to isolate differentially expressed genes in fetal and adult human brain. RNA samples extracted from adult and 18-24-week-old fetal human brain were reverse transcribed, amplified using twenty combinations of 3'-anchored primers and degenerate 5'-primers, and the resulting cDNA fragments separated on denaturing polyacrylamide gels. Thereafter, 45 (H1-H45) differentially displayed cDNA bands were extracted from the gels, amplified by polymerase chain reaction, and used as probes to detect their mRNA by northern blotting. One of these fragments, H8, confirmed on northern blotting to be highly expressed in fetal brain, was cloned and sequenced. This fragment was homologous to wild type p23 human transplantation antigen. This is phylogenetically a well conserved gene and appears to play an important role in cell growth. Even a single point mutation in the mouse gene results in cell destruction secondary to a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte response. Therefore, our finding that normal human fetal brain expresses high levels of wild type p23 transplantation antigen may have importance in maintaining cell growth during human brain development.