Large-scale expressed sequence tags (EST) analysis was used to demonstrate a number of dynamic changes in the global gene expression profile of the basal chordate Ciona intestinalis over the course of its development. The fertilized egg was found to store a great variety of maternal transcripts and, as development proceeds, the organism expresses a progressively smaller repertoire of genes. In addition, a significant portion of genes involved in embryogenesis were observed to be downregulated during metamorphosis, at which point the adult appears to utilize a different set of genes to form its body. At least 25% of the genes involved in development were found to be used multiple times. This kind of information is essential to form a comprehensive understanding of the overarching expression-control plan by which the basic chordate body is formed.