We developed and characterized antibodies specific for FGF-2 and used them to locate FGF-2 during chick embryo development. A series of micrographs demonstrated the progression of FGF-2 staining during development of the different tissues and organs. FGF-2 was present in the ectoderm covering the entire embryo, muscle cells, nervous system, neural crest cells, and mesonephros. FGF-2 was also present in the limb from initiation of budding through differentiation. The limb ectoderm and subjacent mesoderm showed the strongest immunostaining, with lower levels in the center of the bud. However, the distribution of FGF-2 positive cells in the mesoderm was not homogeneous. This heterogeneity was not due to cell cycle specific distribution of FGF-2 protein, as flow cytometric analysis showed that FGF-2-positive cells were distributed throughout the cell cycle. However, the amount of anti-FGF-2 fluorescence varied most during G1, consistent with the possibility that FGF-2 is low after M phase and increases during G1. A bioassay was used to demonstrate FGF-2 levels in the wing ectoderm were approximately 2.7-fold greater than in the mesoderm. We propose that the location of FGF-2 in the embryo is consistent with a role in epithelial-mesenchymal interactions; in the limb bud it may prevent differentiation and permit limb outgrowth and subsequent expression of patterning events. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.