Abstract In this review we describe how mouse embryonic mammogenesis depends on a continuous communication between the epithelial and mesenchymal compartment of the mammary rudiment. Although the functions of only a few genes in the regulation of these epithelio-mesenchymal interactions during mouse mammary development are known so far, key roles are suggested for WNT, FGF and PTHrP signaling. However, the exact mechanism of action of these signaling pathways and their possible cross-talk in the induction of mammary development are not clear, nor does our current knowledge suffice to explain how the number and positions of the mammary rudiments are so well defined. Nonetheless, by the description of aberrant induction and/or maintenance of the mammary rudiments in a variety of inbred mouse strains and mutants, we have accumulated data demonstrating that the mammary rudiments develop independently of each other at these positions. In addition, each rudiment pair responds differently to altered levels of gene expression. This not only clarifies the unique identity of each placode, but the different molecular requirement of each placode also suggests that different molecular mechanisms may underlie the formation of such identical structures. For future investigations in the field, such a unique molecular identity of each mammary rudiment should be of critical concern.