The platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha-subunit (PDGFR alpha) is the form of the PDGF receptor that is required for binding of PDGF A-chain. Expression of PDGFR alpha within the early embryo is first detected as the mesoderm forms, and remains characteristic of many mesodermal derivatives during later development. By 9.5 days of development, embryos homozygous for the Patch mutation (a deletion of the PDGFR alpha) display obvious growth retardation and deficiencies in mesodermal structures, resulting in the death of more than half of these embryos. Mutant embryos that survive this first critical period are viable until a new set of defects become apparent in most connective tissues. For example, the skin is missing the dermis and connective tissue components are reduced in many organs. By this stage, expression of PDGFR alpha mRNA is also found in neural crest-derived mesenchyme, and late embryonic defects are associated with both mesodermal and neural crest derivatives. Except for the neural crest, the lens and choroid plexus, PDGFR alpha mRNA is not detected in ectodermal derivatives until late in development in the central nervous system. Expression is not detected in any embryonic endodermal derivative at any stage of development. These results demonstrate that PDGFR alpha is differentially expressed during development and that this expression is necessary for the development of specific tissues.