We investigated the expression pattern of the endothelin-A receptor and endothelin 1 genes, the mutations of which affect the development of the mesectodermal derivatives of the neural crest. We show here that endothelin 1 is expressed by the environment of the cephalic neural crest cells invading branchial arches. Later on, while the neural crest-derived tissues of the head continue to express endothelin-A receptor, endothelin 1 is no longer expressed in their environment. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.