c-myb expression is an indicator of hemopoietic cell proliferation and its down-regulation occurs as an early event in cellular differentiation in vitro. We have previously demonstrated c-Myb protein expression in normal adult colon and tumor-derived colonic cell lines and have also shown that the proliferation of colon carcinoma cell lines is c-myb dependent. This study used the techniques of RNase protection and immunohistochemistry to define c-myb mRNA and protein expression in the normal adult mouse and mouse embryos, with special focus on the colon. These experiments revealed wide-spread c-myb mRNA expression in mouse embryos including nonhemopoietic tissues, and developmental time course studies revealed alterations in organ-specific c-myb mRNA expression. Immunohistochemical studies confirmed the embryonal expression of c-Myb in concordance with the mRNA data as well as c-Myb expression throughout the length of the adult mouse colonic crypt. In contrast, staining for the proliferating cell nuclear antigen was confined to the lower one third of the crypt. In addition, c-Myb staining extended beyond that of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen within the germinal centers of the spleen. These data suggest that c-myb: (a) has a role in the embryonic development of nonhemopoietic organs; (b) plays a specific role in the biology of the normal adult colonic crypt; and (c) expression is not inextricably linked to proliferation in vivo.