The aim of this work is to clarify the development and morphology of the juxta-oral organ (JOO) in rat embryos from Day (E)14 to 19. Furthermore, in the region of the JOO, an analysis was made of the expression of the monoclonal antibody HNK-1, which recognizes cranial neural-crest cells. In this study, we report that JOO develops from an epithelial condensation at the end of the transverse groove of the primitive mouth at E14. During E15, it invaginates and is disconnected from the oral epithelium. At E16, the JOO forms an solid epithelial cord with three parts (anterior, middle, and posterior) and is related to the masseter, temporal, medial pterygoid, and tensor veli palatini muscles. During E17-19, no significant changes were detected in their position. Both the mesenchyme caudal to the anlage of the JOO at E14, as well as the mesenchyme that surrounds the bud of the JOO at E15, expressed positivity for HNK-1. Our results suggest that the mesenchyme surrounding the JOO at E15 could emit some inductive signal for the JOO to reach its position at E16. This work shows for the first time that the cranial neural-crest-derived mesenchyme participates in the development of the JOO. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.