Acute exposure to 400 mg/kg 13-cis retinoic acid (13-cis F U, isotretinoin, Accutane®) on the ninth day postfertilization in mice (a time that corresponds to the fourth week postfertilization in humans) results in malformations that characterize mandibulofacial dysostosis (MFD, Treacher Collins syndrome). Deficiencies in the infraorbital region and in the mandibular ramus and condyle, abnormalities of the secondary palate, and external ear malformations were observed. Light and scanning electron microscopic analyses of affected embryos illustrate that within 12 hours of maternal 13-cis RA treatment, markedly excessive (possibly premature) cell death occurs in regions where some of the cells are normally destined to undergo programmed cell death. Previous studies with retinoids have shown that they labilize lysosomal membranes and expand and strengthen regions of programmed cell death. Of particular interest for this study was cell death occurring in the dorsal (proximal) aspects of the maxillary and mandibular prominences of the first visceral arch, the second visceral arch, and the first visceral cleft, areas that correspond to the locations of the first and second arch ectodermal (“ganglionic”) placodes and first closing membrane, respectively. The derivatives of this region are those that are severely affected in MFD. As described in previous reports from this laboratory, 13-cis RA is known to interfere with neural crest cells, resulting in major craniofacial malformations. However, the exposure times involved were earlier than those described herein. It is hypothesized that effects on the first and second arch ectodermal placodal cells at a time following the release from the neural folds of neural crest cells into the developing cranial region are of great significance in the pathogenesis of MFD. This is in contrast to the prevailing hypothesis that these malformations are the direct result of a primary interference with neural crest cells.