The chicken limb deformity (ld) mutation affects morphogenesis of both limbs and kidneys and is one of few murine mutations for which the affected gene has been isolated. Analysis of the chicken homolog reveals evolutionary conservation of large parts of the encoded ld gene products. This is the first study of these proteins, their intracellular localization, and their temporal and spatial distribution during embryogenesis. A major 180-kD protein is expressed in chicken embryos and certain adult tissues. The proteins are localized in the nuclei of different embryonic cell types in a characteristic punctate pattern. In the developing chicken limb bud, they are expressed in the newly differentiated apical ectodermal ridge and the mesenchymal compartment, where an unequal distribution along the anteroposterior and, subsequently, the dorsoventral axes, is observed. During kidney morphogenesis, expression is initially restricted to the epithelial compartment of the pronephros and mesonephros. These results correlate well with the previous analysis of the murine ld phenotype and imply determinative roles for ld gene products during the morphogenesis of limbs and kidneys. Unexpected expression in the notochord, floor plate, and ventral horns suggests an involvement of the ld gene products in establishment of the dorsoventral polarity of the neural tube.