A cDNA encoding L14, the lactose-binding, soluble lectin of relative molecular mass 14 × 10(3), has been isolated in a differential screen designed to identify genes that are regulated during the differentiation of murine embryonic stem cells in vitro. The expression patterns of the gene and of the encoded protein during mouse embryogenesis are consistent with the lectin playing a role at several stages of development. Firstly, it is initially synthesised in the trophectoderm of expanded blastocysts immediately prior to implantation, suggesting that it may be involved in the attachment of the embryo to the uterine epithelium. Secondly, in the postimplantation embryo, the lectin is abundantly expressed in the myotomes of the somites. This observation, when taken together with data indicating a role for the lectin in myoblast differentiation in culture, suggests that the protein is important in muscle cell differentiation. Finally, within the nervous system expression of this gene is activated early during the differentiation of a particular subset of neurones.