Oligonucleotide-based microarray analyses were carried out to identify retinoic acid target genes in embryos of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. Of 21,938 spots, 50 (corresponding to 43 genes) showed over twofold up-regulation in retinoic acid-treated tail bud embryos. In situ hybridization verified retinoic acid-induced up-regulation of 23 genes. Many of them were expressed in the anterior tail region, where a retinaldehyde dehydrogenase homolog is expressed. Homologs of vertebrate genes involved in neurogenesis and/or neuronal functions (e.g., COUP-TF, Ci-Hox1, and SCO-spondin) were expressed in the central nervous system of Ciona embryos, and activated by retinoic acid. Genes encoding transcription factors (e.g., Ci-lmx1.2, vitamin D receptor, and Hox proteins) and apoptosis-related proteins (e.g., transglutaminase and an apoptosis-inducing factor homolog) were also activated by retinoic acid. Simultaneous treatment of embryos with retinoic acid and puromycin revealed a few direct targets, including genes encoding Ci-Hox1, Ci-Cyp26, and an Rnf126-like ring finger protein. Developmental Dynamics 233:1571–1578, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.