In order to investigate the role of the c-kit oncogene in the melanoblast development, a rat monoclonal antibody (ACK2) against the mouse c-kit protein was used to localize cells expressing c-kit during fetal development. ACK2 was also injected directly into the amniotic cavity of mouse fetuses at successive developmental stages. After birth, the offspring were examined to determine the resulting coat color patterns. c-kit positive melanoblasts first appeared in dermis of fetuses at 11.5 days postcoitum (dpc). Subsequently, these cells increased in number and migrated dorsolaterally to the ventral region, and by 12.5 dpc some of them began to invade the epidermis. Treatment of fetuses by ACK2 microinjection appeared to affect the pigmentation in the coat, inducing a variety of spotting patterns in offspring, and the location of the spots was closely correlated with gestational stage. ACK2 injection of early fetuses produced major changes in coat color even though few c-kit positive cells were detectable in the dermal mesenchyme at the time of injection. Large spots were also induced when mid-stage fetuses with a only few c-kit positive cells in the dorsal region were injected. By contrast, except for spot formation in the center of ventral region, ACK2 injection did not appear to affect melanogenesis in late stage fetuses that had many c-kit positive cells.