While all cells in eukaryotic organisms probably express the gene encoding NADPH cytochrome P450 reductase, we identified two novel sites which have the highest local concentrations of P450 reductase transcripts during murine embryogenesis. One site is in developing limbs, including lateral limb bud mesenchyme and condensing mesenchyme in the footplate which will form precartilage. A second site is in primitive neuroepithelia, including future olfactory epithelia and olfactory lobes of the brain. These high, local concentrations of P450 reductase transcripts revealed by in situ hybridization were transient and most prominent between embryonic (E) days 12.5-15.5. They cannot be explained by the known functions for P450 reductase. The precursor nature of the highest reductase-expressing cells suggests that differentiation-specific mechanisms regulate P450 reductase gene transcription during organogenesis. The data suggest this multifunctional protein might serve an important role in the formation of precartilage models from condensing limb mesenchyme and in the early development of joints that will form at apposed surfaces of these models.