The XlHbox 8 homeodomain protein of Xenopus and STF-1, its mammalian homolog, are selectively expressed by beta cells of adult mouse pancreatic islets, where they are likely to regulate insulin expression. We sought to determine whether the expression of the homeobox protein/s during mouse embryonic development was specific to beta cells or, alternatively, whether XlHbox 8/STF-1 protein/s were initially expressed by multipotential precursors and only later became restricted to the insulin-containing cells. With two antibodies, we studied the localization of STF-1 during murine pancreatic development. In embryos, as in adults, STF-1 was expressed by most beta cells, by subsets of the other islet cell types and by mucosal epithelial cells of the duodenum. In addition, most epithelial cells of the pancreatic duct and exocrine cells of the pancreas transiently contained STF-1. We conclude that in mouse, STF-1 not only labels a domain of intestinal epithelial cells but also provides a spatial and temporal marker of endodermal commitment to a pancreatic and subsequently, to an endocrine beta cell fate. We propose a model of pancreatic cell development that suggests that exocrine and endocrine (alpha, beta, delta and PP) cells arise from a common precursor pool of STF-1+ cells and that progression towards a defined monospecific non-beta cell type is correlated with loss of STF-1 expression.