Genes carrying the homeobox were originally identified in Drosophila, in which they are now known to play key roles in establishing segmentation patterns and in determining segment identities. A number of genes with striking homology to the Drosophila homeobox genes have now been found in the mouse genome, and mutational analysis is beginning to shed light on their function in mammalian development. To understand better the developmental significance of the murine Hox-2.2 gene, we have generated gain of function mutants by using the chicken β-actin promoter to drive ubiquitous expression in transgenic mice. The resulting Hox-2.2 misexpression produces early postnatal lethality as well as craniofacial and axial skeletal perturbations that include open eyes at birth, cleft palate, micrognathia, microtia, skull bone deficiencies, and structural and positional alterations in the vertebral column. We repeatedly observe complete or partial absence of the supraoccipital bone and malformations of the exoccipital and the basioccipital bones. These results suggests a role for the Hox-2.2 gene in specifying positional identity along the anterior-posterior axis. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.