We studied the distribution of the homeodomain proteins Pdx-1 and Nkx 6.1 in the developing rat pancreas. During early development, nuclear staining for both Pdx-1 and Nkx 6.1 occurred in most epithelial cells of the pancreatic anlage. Subsequently, Nkx 6.1 became more beta-cell-restricted, and Pdx-1 also occurred in other islet cell types and in the duodenal epithelium. During early pancreatic development, cells co-storing insulin and glucagon were regularly detected. The vast majority of these did not possess nuclear staining for either Pdx-1 or Nkx 6.1. Subsequently, cells storing insulin only appeared. Such cells displayed strongly Pdx-1- and Nkx 6.1-positive nuclei. Therefore, Nkx 6.1, like Pdx-1, may be an important factor in pancreatic development and in mature insulin cell function.